2009 UCF Knights Football Preview
2008 Record: (4-8, 3-5)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: George O’Leary (26-36 at UCF, 78-69 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Taaffe
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Huxtable
Rushing: Brynn Harvey, RB, 519 yards
Passing: Rob Calabrese, QB, 664 yards
Receiving: Brian Watters, WR, 594 yards
Tackles: Lawrence Young, LB, 72
Sacks: Bruce Miller, DE, 7.0
Interceptions: Derrick Hallman, S, 1; Bruce Miller, DE, 1; Lawrence Young, LB, 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Kamar Aiken, C Ian Bustillo, DE Jarvis Geathers, LB Chance Henderson, TE John Lubischer, OT Adam Nissley, G Nick Pieschel, G Jah Reid, WR Rocky Ross, DT Torrell Troup, RB Ronnie Weaver
Key Losses: OT Patrick Brown, CB Joe Burnett, C Mike Lavoie, CB Johnell Neal, S Shareff Rashad, S Jason Venson
In 2007 UCF went 10-4, opened up their beautiful new stadium by nearly beating the Longhorns of Texas and ended up facing off against Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. That is the type of season Knight fans have come to expect under Coach George O’Leary. The 2008 campaign was anything but successful. In fact, most would describe the offense as painful.
And it was because of the defense that the team from Central Florida even won four games last year. The defensive line will be the best in the conference by far. End Bruce Miller tallied 7.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles-for-loss last year and fellow lineman Torrell Troup added 12.5 tackles-for-loss. Both of those guys could be playing on Sunday’s sooner or later. But there is more to the line than just Miller and Troup. End Jarvis Geathers was second on the team in sacks last year with 5.5 and Travis Timmons compliments Troup in the middle of the line quite well. The linebackers return three starters in Derrick Hallman, Chance Henderson and Lawrence Young, but the real problem is in the secondary. Replacing Joe Burnett, Johnell Neal, Shareff Rashad and Jason Venson will not be easy. Having a front line that can get to the quarterback will make it easier for the newcomers to adjust to full time starting positions, but the pass defense should suffer at least a little bit.
Nobody in the nation tallied fewer yards per game than the UCF offense. At best it was serviceable and most of the time it was just plain ugly. For better or worse, ten starters are back. The biggest bright spot could be running back Brynn Harvey. As a true freshman he rushed for a team high 519 yards. However, he only reached the end zone once. But the Knights hope that they can rely on him to be an effective every down back now that he has a year of experience under his belt. The quarterback situation is where the real mess was last year. Rob Calabrese, Michael Greco and Joe Weatherford all were given an opportunity. None of them took advantage. Calabrese took the most snaps and he completed a dismal 39.4 percent of his attempts. Calabrese should be the guy again this year, but those numbers have to get better. In fact, the entire offense, including the linemen, need to use their experience and simply play better football.
The Bottom Line for the Knights:
The offense does not have to be as bad as it was last year. Harvey is full of potential and the linemen are a year older and wiser. Calabrese even has some quality targets to throw the ball to, most notably Kamar Aiken. Aiken is a playmaker who can make things happen. Add Brian Watters, last year’s top receiver, Rocky Ross and tight end John Lubischer to the mix and there is no reason the passing offense has to rank 115 th in the nation yet again.
By Joel Welser
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