From: Orlando Sentinel Date of Publication: August 11, 2017
After losing several key players, the UCF coaching staff was a little worried about what to expect from its linebackers. But after seeing the unit’s performance during the first few weeks of preseason camp, the coaches are feeling much better about the group.
“Linebackers have been great. We got four outside guys that I feel great about,” coach Scott Frost said. “Inside, Chequan [Burkett] and Pat [Jasinski] are doing an unbelievable job. Nate Evans and Gabe Luyanda are doing great, too, and we got some young guys that are good ball players.”
Coming off a year in which UCF’s defense played a pivotal role during most of the team’s wins, the coaching staff hopes the linebackers can help the defense have an even better year in 2017.
“They really just want us to step up. They want us to come together and bring the defense together and bring this team together,” junior linebacker Pat Jasinski said. “We had a good defense last year, but we want to strengthen it, get it better and help our offense even more. I think our offense is looking better, our defense is looking better. If we can just keep moving along, keep pushing, I think it’s gonna be solid.”
The linebackers credit a lot of their early success to the group’s close bond on and off the field. Jasinski, Titus Davis and Shaquem Griffin often hang out after practice and during the weekends, and the group doesn’t see any division between classes.
“All of our linebackers are close. Even from me, Chequan to me and any freshman,” sophomore linebacker Nate Evans said. “We just have a good environment. … We’re talking about smiles and laughter on everybody’s faces, so that’s the type of environment we have.”
While the linebackers feel that they are doing well, there is always room to improve. With several new players coming in, one of the areas they have been focused on is communication and they have already noticed improvement.
“The communication has picked up,” Davis said. “Last year, we kind of had a lack of communication, so sometimes we’d have busts and stuff like that, but now we’re starting to communicate a lot more and focus on those type of things.”
One player working especially hard on communication is Jasinski. He may only be a junior, but his teammates consider him to be one of the group’s veterans and part of that may be due to the attitude he brings to the field and the attention he pays to his teammates.
“I just want to do a good job of communicating and taking care of my teammates,” he said. “When I’m out there, I don’t want to be focused on my job, what I gotta do. I want to focus on everyone else and I just want to do my best to focus on the other 10 guys that are out there because that’s more important.”
With the season just a few weeks away, the linebackers are working to continue to improve and make sure that they are as prepared as possible for the Knights’ first game.
“Like Coach Frost says, pressure’s something that you feel when you’re not ready and I think our defense, along with our staff, has done a lot to prepare,” Jasinski said. “We’ve prepped and worked really hard, so I don’t think the pressure is there at all. I think honestly, we’re just gonna go out, do our best and I think the results will show.”