2011 UCF Preview – Defense
UCF S Kemal Ishmael
UCF S Kemal Ishmael
Posted Jun 7, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UCF Defense

UCF Knights

Preview 2011 - Defense

- 2011 UCF Preview | 2011 UCF Offense
- 2011 UCF Defense | 2011 UCF Depth Chart
- UCF Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What you need to know: After When Dave Huxtable moved on to Wisconsin, it opened the door for a familiar face to take over at coordinator, veteran John Skladany. Already on staff as an assistant, he'll be reprising a role he held in the past under George O'Leary. He takes control of a D coming off one of its best seasons, ranking in the top 15 in total defense and scoring defense. The Knights play the game fast and furious, employing the speed of its recruits. While a handful of starters are gone, including all-time sack leader Bruce Miller, UCF plans to pick up where it left off in 2010. The line returns a bunch of lettermen, pointing to Troy Davis as the possible successor to Miller off the edge. The secondary will insert a pair of new starters, but welcomes back first team all-stars Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael. The linebackers took a hit from graduation, needing to regroup around Josh Linam.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kemal Ishmael, 93
Sacks: Darius Nall, 8.5
Interceptions: Josh Robinson, Kemal Ishmael, 2

Star of the defense: Junior CB Josh Robinson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB A.J. Bouye
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Troy Davis
Best pro prospect: Robinson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robinson, 2) Junior FS Kemal Ishmael, 3) Senior LB Josh Linam
Strength of the defense: Creating pressure, run defense, pass defense, speed and athletic ability
Weakness of the defense: The linebackers, overall depth

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: For the second straight year, UCF is being forced to replace a dominant player along the defensive line. Two years ago, all-star DT Torrell Troup and DE Jarvis Geathers departed. And now, the Knights will need to move on after all-time sack leader Bruce Miller exhausted his eligibility. Throw in the graduation of the other end, David Williams, and the line will be looking for an injection of outside pressure this season.

If spring is any indication, 6-2, 256-pound junior Troy Davis is going to be the successor to Miller on the outside. He scratched the surface of his potential a year ago, making 26 tackles, eight stops for loss, and 5.5 sacks. And then he really took flight this past offseason, dominating the Knight blockers in the spring with his exceptional speed, burst, and strength in the upper body.

The favorite coming out of spring on the other side is 6-5, 259-pound junior Toby Jackson , one of the nation's top JUCO recruits from a year ago. The product of Navarro (Tex.) Junior College has good speed and the long arms needed to swim past opposing tackles. The Knights are hoping he'll be challenged by 6-3, 246-pound senior Darius Nall , an explosive edge rusher who earned a spot on the all-league second team after making 31 tackles, 9.5 stops for loss, and 8.5 sacks. However, he sat out the spring to attend to personal issues, raising concerns about his availability in the fall.

The tackle combination will be comprised of a pair of sophomores, 6-4, 256-pound Victor Gray and 6-2, 302-pound < strong> E.J. Dunston . Gray was one of the league's top freshmen of 2010, starting 11 games and finishing with 33 tackles, a sack, and five pass breakups. The quicker of the two interior linemen, he'll be expected to shoot the gaps and get penetration. Dunston, on the other hand, is more of a classic run-stuffer, using his strength and leverage to hold up at the point of attack. A three-game starter in his debut out of high school, he laid a promising future with 13 tackles, two stops for loss, and a sack.

Watch Out For .... Davis to erupt into one of Conference USA's best pass rushers. The junior is a legitimate star-in-the-making, with the skill set to help buffer the loss of Miller to graduation. His epic performance in the spring game was a sneak preview of what's to come later in the year.
Strength: Edge pressure. Assuming Nall makes his return in August, UCF will have three capable pass rushers to generate pressure. Davis is ready for primetime and Jackson was one of the most coveted junior college prospects from a year ago. Miller may be gone, but the ability to get after the passer has not escaped the program.
Weakness: Depth. Particularly on the inside, the Knights will be thin and inexperienced in the rotation. Heck, if Nall goes AWOL for whatever reason, UCF could also feature a couple of freshmen at defensive end on the second team.
Outlook: The UCF defensive line has plenty of hope and potential of not skipping a beat after having so much success up front in recent seasons. The fact that only one full-timer is back is a bit deceptive since three linemen started games in 2010 and Jackson has JUCO experience. This unit could be one of the more pleasant surprises for the Knight this season.
Rating: 5.5


State of the Unit: Two starters and three seniors have graduated from the linebacker corps, leaving the staff looking to develop replacements. For years, this has been an underrated area of the UCF D, a speedy group, with the range and lateral quickness to support in run and pass defense. If there's a decline here, it's going to be felt throughout the defensive unit.

The new veteran of the linebackers is 6-3, 237-pound senior Josh Linam , last year's starter in the middle. Stout at the point of attack and with improving diagnostic skills, he finished third on the team with 78 stops, adding nine tackles for loss, and a sack. He'll be counted on to be one of the emotional and physical leaders of the Knight D.

In order to address a need at weakside, 5-9, 199-pound junior Jonathan Davis has been switched from running back, where he gained more than 500 yards in two seasons. Forget his modest size. He's a hitter, with the toughness and intensity to excel on this side of the ball. At strongside, the staff is counting on an interesting candidate, 6-5, 237-pound junior Ray Shipman . A transfer from Florida, he was on the Gator basketball squad, and hasn't played football since his freshman year of high school. He has the necessary athletic ability, but has a long way to go in terms of learning the playbook and reacquainting himself with the nuances of the sport. On a second team suddenly being dominated by transfers, 6-3, 219-pound junior Loren Robinson has the most experience, appearing in seven games and making eight tackles in 2010.

Watch Out For .... Davis to become a playmaker. This was a logical relocation, especially since the Knights are already loaded in the backfield. Davis was a star linebacker in high school, and is the type of athlete who's simply going to make plays no matter where he's lining up.
Strength: The inside. The staff has been raving about Linam for the past few years, gushing about his ability to defend the run and make stops in the open field. The graduations of Derrick Hallman, Lawrence Young, and Chance Henderson clear the way for the senior to command more headlines in his final season on campus.
Weakness: Sure-things. After Linam, the Knights have plenty of question marks at linebacker. The projected starters on the outside were last seen at running back and on the hardwood, and two of the openings on the B team might be filled by junior college transfers.
Outlook: The linebacker position is going to be a tender area at UCF in 2011. Three of last season's top eight tacklers are gone, leaving behind a series of question marks. To even approach the unit's 2010 success against the pass and the run, Davis and Shipman, among others, will need to jet past expectations.
Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: After getting stretched to its limits in the middle of last season, the UCF secondary regrouped and finished 2010 on a positive note, keeping Georgia out of the end zone in the Liberty Bowl. Aided by the return of a pair of All-Conference USA first teamers, the Knights will attempt to keep that trend going this fall. Halfway to a dynamite defensive backfield, it'll be up to the coaching staff to develop two new starters to replace Reggie Weams and Justin Boddie.

In 5-10, 192-pound junior Josh Robinson, UCF boasts one of the nation's rising stars at cornerback. A third-year starter and member of last year's All-Conference-USA first team, he'll eventually take his speed and cover skills to the NFL. Increasingly avoided by opposing passers, he finished last season with 59 tackles, two interceptions, and a team-high 13 pass breakups.

Junior FS Kemal Ishmael joined Robinson on the All-Conference USA first team by making a program-best 93 tackles, two picks, five pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. A physical 5-11, 211-pounder, he plays the run with the aggression of a linebacker and can really deliver the payload when he reaches his target. While Robinson brings finesse, Ishmael is the enforcer of the secondary.

In the lead to fill the void at corner is 6-0, 179-pound junior A.J. Bouye , who started a pair of games in 2010, making 26 tackles, seven pass breakups, and a pick six. After playing some safety last year, the staff feels he has the athletic ability and cover skills to help bolster the pass defense. Sophomore Jordan Ozerities is looking to pick up where he left off a year ago, when he lettered and had 15 stops in his debut out of high school. He already has two springs in the books and a bright future as a Knight.

The battle at strong safety is a close one between 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman Clayton Geathers and 6-1, 191-pound sophomore Jarrett Swaby . Geathers held the advantage coming out of spring, using his long frame and range to attract the attention of the coaching staff. While Swaby moves like a cornerback, he's yet to approach the potential that followed him when he arrived from high school.

Watch Out For .... Bouye to get picked on often. Who could blame opposing quarterbacks for going after No. 19, considering who's on the other side of the field? He'll get a crash course on being under a microscope, with Robinson cutting off the other half of the secondary.
Strength: Clamping down. The Knights do an outstanding job of limiting the big play and stiffening in the red zone. The two components return from a defensive backfield that yielded only 6.1 yards per pass attempt and kept Bulldog QB Aaron Murray out of the end zone last December.
Weakness: Proven depth. The Knights lost a lot of seniors to graduation a year, forcing them to lean on a bunch of underclassmen on the second team this year. Robinson and Ishmael are standouts and likely all-stars, but after that pair, question marks will be the order of the day.
Outlook: UCF will once again boast one of Conference USA's best defensive backfields, a feisty group that attacks the ball and locks down on opposing receivers. The Knights might be a little more vulnerable than in 2010, but will improve as the year progresses and the young kids get more comfortable in expanded roles.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Trouble awaits a special teams unit that sprung leaks a year ago, and has even more holes to fill this year. The punter is gone and the placekicker is back, which isn't exactly cause for a celebration. Senior Nick Cattoi has a powerful leg, but lacks accuracy, going just 11-of-19 on field goal attempts and 1-of-6 outside 40 yards. Junior Jamie Boyle is also in the picture, but didn't instill confidence in the staff when he had a chance, missing both of his field goal tries.

Senior David Bohner is expected to succeed Blake Clingan at punter. A former transfer from Navy, he averaged 37.6 yards on eight attempts in 2010, needing to improve his distance and hang time.

Watch Out For… the progress of Cattoi. At 6-5 and 224 pounds, it's hard not to be impressed by his booming leg. However, what good is it if he can't split the uprights on a more regular basis? Boyle is just as iffy, which could force the Knights to go for it on fourth down a little more than they'd like.
Strength: The return game. The combination of junior Josh Robinson on punt returns and junior Quincy McDuffie on kickoff returns was one of the most dynamic duos in the country. Both are back. Robinson was ninth nationally at 15.2 yards and McDuffie was No. 2, averaging 32.2 yards and scoring twice.
Weakness: The kicking game. Cattoi is about as accurate as Dwight Howard is from the stripe, and the situation at punter is, at best, murky. The Knights are bound to struggle in these areas, which is going to have a detrimental effect on both the offense and the defense.
Outlook: The UCF special teams unit will again be a confluence of good and bad. The combo of the return game and the coverage teams is among the dozen or so best in the country. However, at the more visible segment of the group, the kicking game, the Knights are going to labor to achieve any consistency.
Rating: 6.5

- 2011 UCF Preview | 2011 UCF Offense
- 2011 UCF Defense | 2011 UCF Depth Chart
- UCF Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006