#85 UCF Football 2017 Preview

UCF Knights
Overall Rank: #85
#8 American
Coach Scott Frost turned UCF from a zero win team to a team that went to a bowl. The expectations are quickly growing much higher. The Knights had a disappointing showing in the Cure Bowl, losing to Arkansas State 31-13 and that has tampered the expectations a little bit. This group may not be quite ready to compete for an AAC title, but they should be able to reach another bowl game.
2016 Record: 6-7, 4-4
2016 Bowl: Cure Bowl vs. Arkansas State (L 13-31)
Coach: Scott Frost (6-7 at UCF, 6-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Troy Walters
Defensive Coordinator: Erik Chinander
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jawon Hamilton, RB, 495 yards
Passing: McKenzie Milton, QB, 1,983 yards
Receiving: Tre’Quan Smith, WR, 853 yards
Tackles: Shaquem Griffin, LB, 92
Sacks: Shaquem Griffin, LB, 11.5
Interceptions: Shaquem Griffin, LB, 1; Seyvon Lowry, DL, 1; Brendon Hayes, DL, 1; Brandon Scott, DB, 1
Other Key Returnees: TE Jordan Atkins, DL Tony Guerad, DL Jamiyus Pittman
Key Losses: RB Dontravious Wilson, WR Taylor Oldham, LB Mark Rucker, DB Shaquill Griffin, DB D.J. Killings, DB T.J. Mutcherson, DB Drico Johnson, LB Errol Clarke
The UCF offense was painful to watch at times in 2016. It was a very young group though and they will get better. Quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 1,983 yards with ten touchdowns and seven interceptions after being thrown into the fire as a freshman. Tre’Quan Smith is developing into a fine big play wide receiver and Jordan Akins will be very involved in the passing game from the tight end position. Sophomores Jawon Hamilton and Adrian Killins figure to get most of the carries in the backfield. Hamitlon rushed for a team high 495 yards on 139 attempts last season, while Killins added 325 yards on just 50 carries. The Knights offense has a long way to go, but the increased experience and depth should make the unit better.
And the defense could take a step back after surprising everybody by ranking third in the AAC allowing just 24.6 points per game. The secondary is almost completely being rebuilt after allowing just over 200 yards per game. The good news for all of the new faces in the secondary is that the front seven should be very, very good. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin returns after tallying 92 tackles and 11.5 sacks and players like Tony Guerad and Jamiyus Pittman will get into the backfield too. As long as the opposing quarterback does not have time to pick apart the inexperienced secondary, the UCF defense should be solid again in 2017.
The Bottom Line:
The offense should be better and the defense should be worse, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out for UCF this year. The schedule starts out with what should be a win at home against Florida International. Following a conference home game against Memphis, UCF plays Georgia Tech and Maryland. The Knights took Maryland to overtime at home last year, but this time that contest is on the road and the Terrapins should be improved. Even a 2-2 start will be enough for this group to reach six wins on the year and reach another bowl, but do not expect another huge step up in the win column.
Projected Bowl: Frisco Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 141.2 (104th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 209.7 (89, 9)
Total Offense: 350.8 (113, 10)
Scoring Offense: 28.8 (66, 7)
Rushing Defense: 169.5 (62, 5)
Pass Defense: 200.8 (28, 2)
Total Defense: 370.3 (39, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.6 (42, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (58, 8)
Sacks: 2.92 (17, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.77 (106, 10)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#250 Cordarrian Richardson