The UCF Football team is aware that some of their 2017 opponents probably overlooked them, underestimated them prior to kickoff.
The players are also aware that such an attitude isn't going to happen this year, not after the program concluded last year on an unprecedented level of success. They know every team they face, from UConn through South Florida and to whomever they meet in a bowl game, will be pulling out all the stops to beat them. To say you defeated a squad that had not lost since 2016 and are the reigning Peach Bowl and national champions, there are at least 12 teams that want all the feels that come with that statement.
Again, the UCF players know this. And to help prepare for it, they have adopted a motto: Attacking champions. Those two words are posted all over the Knights' locker room. It's head coach Josh Heupel's way of conveying to his players that they can't just be reigning champions.
"As a program or even as an individual, it's probably easier to get somewhere on the top of the mountain than it is to maintain staying up there," Heupel said following his team's first preseason practice Wednesday. "Once you're up there, everyone around this program is talking about you're going to have a big target on your back or on your chest.
"So, we kind of flipped the mantra. Instead of being the targeted, we want to attack and be aggressive."
This has been heard loud and clear by Heupel's players, including offensive lineman Jordan Johnson:
Who knows if this team feels any pressure to keep the FBS' longest current winning streak alive? Those players who have been asked such a question say this group has moved on from 2017 and is fully concentrated for this season. That's the answer we heard during the spring and that's the answer we will continue to get even though more questions about pressure will surely be lobbed the players' way as their Aug. 30 date in Hartford draws nearer.
However, it is already apparent that the 2018 Knights will not be complacent. They will not rest on their laurels. This new coaching staff has pounded into their brains that any contentment or self-satisfaction carried over from last year will not be tolerated. They may very well lose at some point this fall. But if they fall, the Knights will do so attacking.
"We're not going to catch anybody off guard now," quarterback McKenzie Milton said. "We're going to get everybody's best shot in this conference. Pitt, North Carolina, FAU, we're going to get their best shot. Those are all really good teams. But if we go through camp lackadaisical like, 'We got this,' we're going to have a rude awakening come August 30th."