#45 UCF Football 2013 Preview

UCF Knights

Overall Rank: #45
#3 American

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After another great year in Conference USA, UCF is ready to make a name for themselves in the new American Athletic Conference. And it should not take very long. The Knights ranked 25th in the nation in scoring offense and return more than enough talent at the skill positions to keep the ball moving. The opposing defenses are going to get tougher, but quarterback Blake Bortles is ready.

2012 Record: (10-4, 7-1)
2012 Bowl: Beef O’Brady’s Bowl vs. Ball State (W 38-17)
Coach: George O’Leary (60-55 at UCF, 112-88 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Taaffe
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Fleming

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Storm Johnson, RB, 507 yards
Passing: Blake Bortles, QB, 3,059 yards
Receiving: Rannell Hall, WR, 720 yards
Tackles: Clayton Geathers, S, 117
Sacks: Thomas Niles, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Terrance Plummer, LB, 1; Brandon Alexander, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: WR J.J. Worton, WR Jeff Godfrey, WR Justin Perriman, TE Justin Tukes, OL Torrian Wilson, OL Jordan McCray, OL Justin McCray, DT E.J. Dunston

Key Losses: RB Latavius Murray, RB Brynn Harvey, WR Quincy McDuffie, DB Kemal Ishmeal, LB Jonathan Davis, DL Troy Davis, LB Ray Shipman, DB A.J. Bouye, DB Lyle Dankenbring

Bortles, a 6-4 junior, threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. He is an extremely efficient passer, connecting on 62.9 percent of his attempts and throwing a mere seven interceptions. With guards Justin and Jordan McCray and tackles Torrian Wilson and transfer Jordan Prestwood on the line, Bortles should get plenty of time to find his receivers. Bortles will get plenty of time to make plays with his feet too. Coach George O’Leary may prefer that Bortles avoids hits, but he did rush for 285 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. He is certainly capable of scrambling around and looking downfield or tucking and picking up what he can with his feet. Bortles will be able to work with perhaps the most talented batch of wide receivers in the AAC. Rannell Hall, J.J. Worton, Jeff Godfrey and Breshad Perriman all caught at least 25 passes last season. Hall is the main big play threat, while Worton, at 6-2, and tight end Justin Tukes, at 6-5, are great targets in the red zone.

The Knights defense has been among the best in Conference USA over the last few seasons, yet there will be challenges for this young group in their new conference. E.J. Dunston is easily the most experienced linemen on the team. Sophomore Demetris Anderson, a transfer from Western Michigan, is expected to join him as a starting tackle. Ends Thomas Niles and Deion Green had very promising freshmen campaigns and will be asked to play with more consistency as sophomores. Almost the entire two-deep in the trenches will consist of underclassmen. It is a talented bunch, yet that much youth is always a concern. The youth movement is on in the secondary as well. Cornerback Brandon Alexander and safety Clayton Geathers are experienced juniors back to lead the unit, but they could be surrounded by freshmen. The secondary also has to find some new playmakers. Alexander and linebacker Terrance Plummer each recorded one interception last season and everybody else who had a pick is gone. Plummer, who tallied 108 total tackles in 2012, has to help cover the gaps around him at the linebacker too while UCF finds two new starters.

The Bottom Line:
This could be a very impressive debut for the Knights in the AAC. The defense has talent, although it may take some time for it to show. And the offense could have the most potent passing attack in the conference. But in order for Bortles to have success through the air, UCF must find a consistent ground game. Latavius Murray is gone after rushing for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns. Storm Johnson should be able to take over for Murray after rushing for 507 yards and four scores. However, there is no experienced depth at running back and Coach O’Leary wants to establish a ground game and build the offense from there. If Johnson struggles and there is nobody to give him a break, the entire UCF offense will fail to live up to their lofty expectations.

Projected Bowl: Belk Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.79 (44th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 225.57 (68, 8)
Total Offense: 407.36 (57, 7)
Scoring Offense: 35.43 (25, 2)
Rushing Defense: 155.86 (56, 5)
Pass Defense: 217.71 (41, 1)
Total Defense: 373.57 (42, 2)
Scoring Defense: 22.07 (27, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.86 (16, 2)
Sacks: 1.93 (65, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.64 (46, 3)


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