2011 UCF Preview
UCF QB Jeff Godfrey
UCF QB Jeff Godfrey
Posted Jun 7, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UCF Knights

UCF Knights

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: George O'Leary
8th year: 45-44
15th year overall: 97-77
Returning Lettermen
Off. 16, Def. 15, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best UCF Players
1. CB/PR Josh Robinson, Jr.
2. FS Kemal Ishmael, Jr.
3. QB Jeff Godfrey, Soph.
4. LB Josh Linam, Sr.
5. DE Troy Davis, Jr.
6. RB Latavius Murray, Jr.
7. RB Brynn Harvey, Jr.
8. DE Darius Nall, Sr.
9. RT Nick Pieschel, Sr.
10. WR/KR Quincy McDuffie, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Charleston South.
Sep. 10 Boston College
Sep. 17 at FIU
Sep. 24 at BYU
Oct. 8 Marshall
Oct. 15 at SMU
Oct. 22 at UAB
Oct. 29 Memphis
Nov. 5 Tulsa
Nov. 12 at Southern Miss
Nov. 19 at East Carolina
Nov. 26 UTEP

These are heady times at UCF. George O'Leary and the coaching are determined to keep the good times rolling in Orlando.

In 2010, the Knights finally broke the vicious cycle of flourishing in odd-numbered years and floundering in even-numbered ones. The rollercoaster ride has officially stopped. Even better, the program delivered a year of milestones, winning a school-record 11 games, making Georgia its maiden bowl victim, and finishing in the final Top 25 for the first time. Want more? UCF did it all with a true freshman behind center and has begun to draw the attention of the Big East as it considers expansion. Yup, these is an interesting period of growth for the program formerly known as Central Florida.

It became evident early last September that rookie QB Jeff Godfrey gave the Knights their best chance to win. The precocious dual-threat went ahead and made the staff look smart, dazzling defenses with his feet and his live right arm. He's a winner, with uncommon poise and leadership skills for such a young player. Now a sophomore, his running will remain ahead of his passing, especially since UCF loses last year's top two receivers and has struggled in pass protection. In fact, the ground game will continue to be the focal point of the entire offense, with the talented trio of Latavius Murray, Brynn Harvey, and Ronnie Weaver fighting for touches.

The defense is going through a bit of a transition, losing architect Dave Huxtable to Bret Bielema's staff in Wisconsin and graduating a handful of starters. Still, the results are expected to remain positive. The Knights have done well at recruiting on this side of the ball, attracting speed and playmakers. Plus, there a handful of quality foundational holdovers on board, such as DE Darius Nall, LB Josh Linam, CB Josh Robinson, and FS Kemal Ishmael.

Climbing the mountain is tough. Staying there can be even harder. UCF is in the twilight of its brief existence, looking to remain Conference USA champs while further enhancing its national image.

What to watch for on offense: Feeding the three-headed monster. It comes as no surprise that UCF operates a fairly conservative offense that uses the run to set up the pass. Now more than ever, the program has the stable of backs to make the ground game motor. In fact, the staff's biggest challenge might be keeping everyone happy. The Knights' leading rushers from the past two seasons, Ronnie Weaver and Brynn Harvey, are back, the latter making a much-anticipated return from an ACL injury. And yet, neither was listed as the starter coming out of spring. That distinction belongs to bruising Latavius Murray, a 6-3, 225-pounder who finished 2010 with a 100-yard effort in the Liberty Bowl upset of Georgia.

What to watch for on defense: The rise of Troy. All-time sack leader Bruce Miller may be gone, but the Knights still plan to harass opposing quarterbacks. There's outstanding speed on the edge, with junior Troy Davis about to explode on to the scene. A nice adjunct to the pass rush in 2010, he went berserk in the spring, capping a strong camp with five sacks in the spring game. He has the physical skills and the insatiable appetite for sacks to be one of Conference USA's breakout stars of the fall, a dynamite pass rusher getting the opportunity to play every down.

The team will be far better if … the kicking game can locate its footing. While special teams is generally a strength in Orlando, the combination of the punter and the placekicker is a very different story. Not only does a replacement need to be found for inconsistent P Blake Clingan, but PK Nick Cattoi is a crapshoot every time he comes off the sidelines. Good on only 11-of-19 field goal attempts last year, and 1-of-6 beyond 40 yards, he's liable to cost the Knights dearly in close games. It's an overlooked aspect of every program, but one that UCF needs to bolster in the next few months.

The Schedule: The Knights get their chance to make some big noise in non-conference play with a home date against Boston College and with an interesting game at BYU that needs to get more attention than it'll receive. Missing Houston from the West is a big break, and getting Tulsa at home helps, but Southern Miss and East Carolina are brutal, make-or-break back-to-back dates on the road in November. If UCF doesn't at least split those two games, the East title will be gone.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Jeff Godfrey. At this time last year, he wasn't even in the starting lineup. Yet, he did enough in 2010 to be considered the new face of the offense. Built more like a cornerback than a quarterback, he's able to vex opposing defenses with his quickness, improving passing skills, and poise in the pocket. After accounting for 23 touchdowns and more than 2,700 total yards in his debut out of high school, he's primping to become the kind of four-year starter behind center who wins a ton of games before he's through.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Josh Robinson. Two years into his Knight career, he's well on his way to becoming one of the nation's top cover corners. Athletically, he's a cut above most of the receivers he faces, sticking close to their hip and having the necessary catch-up speed when someone gets behind him. A future NFL draft choice, he has the physicality to step up in run defense, but is at his best when he's jumping routes and batting balls out of the air.

Key player to a successful season: Junior LB Jonathan Davis. The Knights were hardest hit at linebacker on defense, losing a pair of starters and three seniors to graduation. It's been an underrated position in Orlando that's counted on to cover large swaths of the field make everyone's life a little easier. An explosive athlete, Davis has been moved over from running back in the hopes that he can solidify the situation at weakside. Once upon a time, he was a state of Georgia Defensive Player of the Year and a high school star.

The season will be a success if ... the Knights win back-to-back Conference USA championships. The favorites in the Eastern half, UCF believes it's found the right formula to win a league often characterized by finesse schools. It runs the ball with authority, plays stout defense, and has talent along both lines. In other words, the program is the anti-C-USA in many ways, and it's working. With enough returning talent on both sides of the ball, anything less than a title will be a disappointment.

Key game: Nov. 12 at Southern Miss. If the Knights are going to survive the East Division, it'll have to successfully navigate a tough final quarter of the schedule that includes trips to Greenville and Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles have been one of UCF's toughest foes in recent years, losing the last three meetings and generally sputtering on offense versus the Nasty Bunch. A change in the trend might be necessary in order to qualify for another Liberty Bowl berth.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: UCF 32.1 – Opponents 17.1
- Rushing touchdowns: UCF 36 – Opponents 9
- Sacks: UCF 32 – Opponents 20

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