Looking for a way to get his defense to force more turnovers and create more havoc for opposing quarterbacks, UCF head coach George O’Leary reached into his past Thursday and hired Ted Roof as the Knights’ new defensive coordinator.
Roof was the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech from 1999-2001 while O’Leary was there as the head coach. Roof was Auburn’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons under Gene Chizik, who coincidentally once served as UCF’s defensive coordinator in the 1990s.
Roof was instrumental in helping guide the Tigers to the 2010 National Championship, but he jumped at the chance to reunite with his coaching mentor in O’Leary. Roof won’t coach in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl with Auburn and starts with UCF immediately.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to come to a great place like this. Just as importantly, it’s great to come and work for a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for and someone who gave me my first break as a coordinator in I-A football,” Roof said just minutes after arriving in Orlando on Thursday. “I think it says a lot about how I feel about coach (O’Leary) to leave a program that won a national championship last year. I think it speaks volumes about me believing in what coach O’Leary is all about and the way he goes about things. I couldn’t be more excited to be here and to see where this program can go.”
UCF went 5-7 this past season in large part because of a defense that struggled at times forcing big plays and getting big stops. UCF’s sacks dropped to 17 this past season and the squad was negative-3 in turnover ratio after recovering just six fumbles and intercepting nine passes.
O’Leary relieved John Skladany of his duties as the defensive coordinator just days after the regular-season finale. O’Leary interviewed four candidates for the job before ultimately deciding on Roof, whom he referred to as “my target from the get go.”
“I hired Ted because of his experience, his coaching ability and because of his ability to get the most out of the players,” O’Leary said. “I’ve always liked to be an aggressive defense, and I wouldn’t have brought Ted in here if I didn’t think he was the guy to get us back where we need to be. We ended this year No. 1 in five categories in Conference USA defensively. But the key is stopping people when you need to stop them. We lost games on the last stop or not putting the ball in the end zone on the last possession.”
Prior to working at Auburn, Roof was a head coach at Duke and a defensive coordinator at Minnesota. At Auburn, his unit was dominant defensively in 2010, allowing just 109.1 yards a game en route to an undefeated season and a national championship. In a released statement, Chizik thanked Roof for his time at Auburn and said he could understand the pull to UCF.
“Ted has played an important role in the success of our football program, helping Auburn win 29 games in three years, including a national championship last season,” Chizik said. “I’m very appreciative of the passion, energy and work ethic Ted brought to the program every day. I know that this will be a great opportunity for Ted to be reunited with his mentor in George O’Leary and we wish him and his family nothing but the best at UCF.”
Roof said he will spend the next few weeks familiarizing himself with UCF’s personnel on the defensive side of the ball and recruiting new talent to the team. He said he will employ an attacking defense that will be based around toughness and fundamentals.
“There are some things that you have to do to win football games,” Roof said. “You have to be able to stop the run and if you don’t do that you will have a long day at the office because that’s a headache that won’t go away. You have to affect the quarterback on third down. Quarterbacks are so good now and if he has time to go through his progressions it’s hard to stop people. So we’ll have to get after them, stop the run and take the ball away. No matter what your style of defense is it still comes back to a game of field position.”
O’Leary said that he is certain that Roof will hold players accountable and help them maximize their talents at UCF.
“ I’m very ecstatic about him coming here and heading up the defense,” O’Leary said. “Ted is a very demanding coach and he really coaches with tough love. Players love playing for him and he’s always gotten the best out of the talent base that we had to work with. He’s a good football coach, a family guy and he has good character. And he’s a good team guy and not just about defense. I’ve always had a great respect for Ted and have followed his progress since I left Georgia Tech. He’s done very well and he’ll do well here at UCF.”