ORLANDO, Fla. — Things are finally starting to get back to normal for the University of Central Florida football team, according to running backs coach Ryan Held.
“We went back to practice today (Thursday, Sept. 14) and obviously were a little sluggish,” said Held, who was head coach at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2014 and 2015.
“There were five or six days where we didn’t do anything,” he said. “We had a pretty good rhythm going, so we’ve got to build ourselves back up.
“We had a couple lifts (in the weight room) a couple days ago, but we’ve got to try to get a rhythm and get this thing going with basic fundamentals.”
Held posted a 9-11 record as the Norse head coach.
He left NEO when former University of Nebraska teammate Scott Frost was named the Knights’ head coach.
UCF has postponed back-to-back games, an after effect of Hurricane Irma.
The Knights’ home stadium and surrounding parking lots have been used as staging areas for 1,000 National Guard members and 250 vehicles being used in the rescue effort.
UCF student-athletes have assisted the National Guard with filling sand bags and delivering lunches.
“We’ve done a good job getting our guys out into the community helping out,” Held said. “We want to be part of the solution helping our community get back on their feet. We’re not just sitting in our dorm rooms all day taking naps.”
Orlando and central Florida escaped the wrath of Irma’s eye, passing to the west, but there still was major damage.
Electrical outages have been the biggest problem, along with flooding.
“We have coaches on our staff who still are without power, five days later,” Held said.
He’s dealing with a leaky roof in his garage and some other damage.
“It’s just a matter of getting trees off the roads,” he said. “We still can’t even get full grocery stuff. Some places don’t have milk and bread. Restaurants aren’t open because there is no power. There is one gas station by my house that isn’t even open because they can’t get gas.”
UCF suspended all academic activity on Sept. 7 and closed for all non-essential activity the following day.
Student-athletes were allowed to return home to assist their families with Hurricane Irma issues.
The university will reopen Monday, Sept. 18, Held said.
American Athletic Conference officials were trying to squeeze in the Sept. 8 game with Memphis, but this week’s game against Georgia Tech has been cancelled.
The Knights return to action Sept. 23 at Maryland.
In their only game, they crushed Florida International on Thursday, Aug. 31.
“I don’t want to say its starting over, but there’s an element of starting over: we’ve got to get into a rhythm,” Held said. “There are no excuses. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We have a long season ahead of us. No matter how many games they put on our schedule, we’ve got to be able to execute it.
“We’re not going use that as a crutch or an excuse: ‘well, we can’t get it done … we didn’t have a good season because of a hurricane.’ We’re not going to go down that road. We’ve got to find a way to make this deal happen.”
Held and Frost played together at Nebraska in the 1995 and ’96 seasons. Frost quarterbacked the Cornhuskers to the co-national championship in 1995.
They inherited a program that had gone 0-12 the previous season.
“We’ve done a good job recruiting and had a real good off-season in the weight room,” Held said. “It’s just changing the culture, changing it to get guys to buy in and believe in what we’ve got to do. We took over (an) 0-12 (team) and that is not an easy task, but our guys have embraced it.”
Central Florida went from a winless team in 2015 to 6-7 in 2016, including a 4-4 record in The American. That includes a 35-20 loss to the University of Tulsa.
“It’s really nice down here,” Held said. “It’s great to work for Coach Frost. I enjoy every day. I love coming into work every day. I enjoyed my time there (at NEO).”