#23 UCF Football 2014 Preview

UCF Knights

Overall Rank: #23
#1 American

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#23 UCF Football 2014 PreviewBuy UCF Football Tickets

In the end the only thing that prevented UCF from having a perfect season was a three point home loss to South Carolina in their fourth game of the season. While the AAC may not be the toughest conference around, the Knights did win at Penn State, at Louisville and against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Coach George O’Leary will have this group competing for another major bowl game even with some major losses on offense.

2013 Record: 12-1, 8-0
2013 Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Baylor (W 52-42)
Coach: George O’Leary (72-56 at UCF, 124-89 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Taaffe
Defensive Coordinator: Tyson Summers

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: William Stanback, RB, 443 yards
Passing: Justin Holman, QB, 75 yards
Receiving: Rannell Hall, WR, 886 yards
Tackles: Terrance Plummer, LB, 110
Sacks: Thomas Niles, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Brandon Alexander, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Breshad Perriman, WR J.J. Worton, OL Torrian Wilson, S Clayton Geathers, LB Troy Gray, CB Jordan Ozerities, CB Jacoby Glenn, K Shawn Moffit

Key Losses: QB Blake Bortles, RB Storm Johnson, WR Jeff Godfrey, OL Jordan McCray, OL Justin McCray, OL Chris Martin, LB Sean Maag, DL E.J. Dunston

Now departed quarterback Blake Bortles got all of the headlines in 2013, but it was the UCF defense that put Bortles and the offense in a position to win games. The defense now returns eight starters to a unit that ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 21.3 points per game. Defensive end Thomas Niles will look to build off of a solid sophomore season in which he totaled 4.0 sacks, 8.0 tackles-for-loss and eight quarterback hurries. Miles Pace figures to move into a full-time starting position on the other side to replace E.J. Dunston. Demetris Anderson and junior college transfer Lance McDowdell are more than capable of clogging the middle. Linebacker Terrance Plummer is one of the best players in the conference. He is a big hitter and extremely versatile. He will do a lot of different things for UCF, but mostly he will tackle anything that moves. The secondary has big time difference makers with safeties Clayton Geathers and Brandon Alexander. Geathers was the team’s second leading tackler with 100 in 2013 and Alexander picked off a team high three passes. Cornerback Jacoby Glenn had a great freshman year and will only get better.

The offense is largely inexperienced. Of course it starts with the quarterback position. Nobody is going to replace Bortles’ numbers. He threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns. But this team just needs somebody who can make smart decisions. Justin Holman was Bortles backup a year ago, but he will get competition from Boise State transfer Nick Patti and freshmen Pete DiNovo and Tyler Harris. Whoever is under center will have talent at wide receiver to work with. Rannell Hall and J.J. Worton were the favorite targets last year. Breshad Perriman is a big play option who averaged nearly 21 yards per catch in 2013. The running game took a hit when Storm Johnson opted for the NFL. Sophomore Willie Stanback, who rushed for 443 yards and six scores on 105 carries, will take over. Stanback could be just as productive as Johnson, but that will not be the case if the line cannot find some new faces. Three starters are gone and Coach O’Leary has two sophomores and a freshman penciled into the starting five.

The Bottom Line:
If the offense needs time to come around or never comes around, the defense will still keep the Knights in every game. In those close, low scoring affairs, UCF may need big plays on special teams to create a spark or win the field position battle. With kicker Shawn Moffitt, punter Caleb Houston and a few return men who can bust big plays, this is a team that has the tools to change the outlook of a game with their special teams. It may come down to that against teams like Penn State and Missouri early in the year. In AAC play the big game that everybody wants to see is not happening. UCF and Cincinnati do not meet this season. That means the team that avoids an upset in conference play will likely win the title.

Projected Bowl: Peach Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.9 (74th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 281.6 (25, 4)
Total Offense: 441.5 (40, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.6 (30, 2)
Rushing Defense: 122.5 (16, 5)
Pass Defense: 239.5 (76, 4)
Total Defense: 362.0 (29, 4)
Scoring Defense: 21.3 (17, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.38 (32, 3)
Sacks: 2.23 (52, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.69 (44, 2)


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