2012 UCF Preview – Offense
UCF RB Latavius Murray
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - UCF Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What you need to know: While the UCF offense is clearly built around the running game, the team would like to get more from the passing attack than the 11 touchdown passes it produced in 2011. George O'Leary's latest triggerman appears to be sophomore Blake Bortles, though heralded Mizzou transfer Tyler Gabbert arrives in time for summer camp. Bortles' objectives will be elementary—get the ball in the hands of the skill position players so that this puttering offense can show a little more pop. Oh, and he'll need to limit his mistakes as well, a positive trend for this team in recent years. The encouraging news is that the Knights have plenty of options at running back and wide receiver. Latavius Murray, Miami transfer Storm Johnson and leading returning rusher Brynn Harvey all have workhorse potential. And receivers Quincy McDuffie, Josh Reese and rookie Breshad Perriman will create matchup problems with their speed.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Latavius Murray
Passing: Jeff Godfrey
160-232, 1,898 yds, 5 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Brynn Harvey
126 carries, 574 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Quincy McDuffie
43 catches, 482 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LT Torrian Wilson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Josh Reese
Best pro prospect: Murray
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior OG Theo Goins, 2) Murray, 3) Senior WR Quincy McDuffie
Strength of the offense: Depth and talent at running back, run blocking, speed at wide receiver, protecting the ball
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency behind center, pass protection, red zone scoring
It's been a strange past year at the quarterback position for the Knights. At this time last summer, Jeff Godfreywas the clear-cut starter, a franchise-type player to build around. However, today he's a toss-up to even return to the program … as a wide receiver. When he fell out of favor, it was sophomore Blake Bortleswho picked up some slack behind center. The 6-4, 221-pounder didn't start a game, but left an impression by going 75-of-110 for 958 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. He's an accurate thrower, with enough arm strength to connect with his receivers before windows shut.
At least for now, versatile senior Rob Calabreseis being penciled in as the backup to Bortles. All the way back in 2008, the 6-2, 216-pounder was believed to be the franchise behind center, but injuries and inconsistency sealed his fate. In fact, before getting hurt last summer, he'd been relocated to wide receiver.
Watch Out For .... the arrival of Missouri transfer Tyler Gabbert . The younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert was a hotly-pursued four-star recruit from the 2010 class. Although he lacks ideal size at 6-0 and 190 pounds, he has the accuracy and athleticism to blow past Calabrese and compete with Bortles.
Strength: Depth. With or without Godfrey, the Knights have more depth than at any point in recent years. Bortles received plenty of reps last season, Calabrese is a seasoned veteran of three letters and the untapped Gabbert could wind up being the best of the bunch.
Weakness: A true franchise player. In Godfrey, UCF felt it had its franchise quarterback. Uh-uh. Calabrese is the graybeard, but he's proven over and over again to not be the answer. And Bortles and Gabbert are still in the very early stages of their development.
Outlook: While the future at quarterback still looks bright in Orlando, the present is going to come with some stumbles and inconsistency. The Knights are young at a position that requires more reps and time in the saddle. Bortles handled all that the staff threw at him in the spring, and Gabbert arrives shortly. It promises to get real interesting once the pair squares off in August.
UCF feels very secure about its running back situation. And why not? The team brings back last year's top two rushers, who'll be joined by a high-profile transfer. Senior Latavius Murrayis the projected starter as summer camp approaches. Last year's Team MVP started only two games, but still rushed for 549 yards and eight scores on only 98 carries. The 6-3, 222-pounder is a physical, no-nonsense runner who's always fighting for more yards, especially in short-yardage situations. He's also a pretty good receiver, catching 17 balls for 242 yards and a score.
Murray's partner in the backfield appears to be 6-1, 216-pound sophomore Storm Johnson , the former three-star back who began his career at Miami. Tough and physical between the tackles, he also has the burst and cutback ability to uncork the occasional homerun on the ground. The potential is in place for him to become a premier Conference USA back. Now he just has to go out and deliver.
Slipping to No. 3 in the pecking order is senior Brynn Harvey who actually led the team with 574 yards and three scores on 126 carries last fall. It was a solid bounce back year for the 6-1, 209-pounder who missed all of 2011 to a serious knee injury. He's a blue-collar performer and a luxury for any team to have coming off the bench.
Senior Billy Giovanettiis back as the team's fullback for a third year in a row. The 5-11, 230-pound plugger won't touch the ball unless there's a fumble, but he'll impact the ground game by opening holes for his teammates.
Watch Out For .... the distribution of the carries. The Knights are in an ideal situation in the backfield, boasting three players capable of carrying the load. However, keeping the trio happy and in a groove will be the responsibility of the coaching staff. It'll be a delicate, one that requires tact and a keen eye for going with the hot hand.
Strength: Depth. Three talented players for one opening; it's the kind of problem every coaching staff wishes it had. Last year's leading rusher, Harvey, is lagging behind the more gifted Murray and Johnson, an indication of just how far this program has come in the backfield.
Weakness: Big plays. It's a new year, but the problem is the same—UCF can be a little too methodical on the ground, rarely snapping off a game-breaking run. Going back to the start of the 2010 season, the Knights' last 1,068 carries have produced just a single run of more than 50 yards.
Outlook: There's no question that the backs are going to be the strength of the 2012 offense in Orlando. And the Knights plan to ride them like a Disney tram. There's talent, depth and apparently not a lot of egos, which is going to create problems for opposing defenses. If Johnson plays up to his high school hype, he and Murray are going to form a dynamite tandem in the fall.
The return of last year's top three pass-catchers to go along with an influx of young athletes has UCF hopeful that its receiving corps will be more consistent than a year ago. Senior Quincy McDuffiewill once again be a favorite target of the quarterbacks, using his track speed to get separation on defensive backs. In his best season as a Knight, he started nine games and caught a team-high 43 passes for 482 yards and one touchdown. Also a threat on sweeps and tosses behind the line, he also became the first UCF wide receiver to rush for more than 100 yards in a season.
Sophomore Josh Reese really came on strong as a rookie, starting five of the team's final six games, and catching 30 balls for 461 yards and a touchdown. At 6-1 and 176 pounds, he has good length and the jets to get behind the secondary. He's a bona fide long ball threat who needs to eliminate some of his dropped throws.
One of the undisputed young stars of the spring was 6-2, 203-pound true freshman Breshad Perrimanwho is already bucking for time in the starting lineup. The son of former Miami Hurricane and NFL receiver Brett Perriman wowed the staff with his speed, ball skills and overall polish for such a young player.
The staff might want to find new ways to get the ball in the hands of 6-2, 191-pound sophomore Rannell Hallbased on his performance on special teams last season. While still raw as a pass-catcher, his speed and acceleration in a large frame will entice the assistants to coach him up during practice.
Leading the way at tight end for the Knights will be 6-5, 246-pound Justin Tukes . He only caught two passes in five games, but has the length, big hands and athleticism to blossom into an effective target on intermediate routes.
Watch Out For .... how long it takes sophomore J.J. Wortonto earn his way back into the rotation. He had a terrific debut, catching 41 passes for 531 yards and four touchdowns, but was suspended in March after getting arrested. While the team announced that he'll be back in the summer, it's not as if George O'Leary will hand the 6-2, 201-pounder anything.
Strength: Speed. It's Florida, where fleet-footed athletes seem to grow on trees like oranges. The Knights have plucked a handful of them to fill out the wide receiver position. McDuffie, Hall, Reese and Perriman can all bolt, which ought to open up the middle of the field when opposing defenses are stretched.
Weakness: Consistency. Yeah, the erratic quarterbacks shared some of the blame, but the receivers need to eliminate their mistakes as well. Dropped balls, poorly run routes and blown assignments must become things of the past if the passing game is going to reach a new level of productivity in 2012.
Outlook: Raw, but exciting. This is going to be an important summer for the wide receivers and tight ends, which have a foundation with which to build, but a lot of room for growth. In an ideal world, the inexperienced quarterbacks and the unpolished pass-catchers get on the same page early, and evolve as 2012 unfolds. UCF certainly has the weapons to beat defenses over the top this year.
UCF plans to build its 2012 offensive line around five players who started at least one game a year ago. If successful, the Knights will exceed the effort of a unit that was a little skittish in 2011. The strength of this group will be on the inside. Senior Jordan Raereturns for his third season as the starting center, fresh off being named honorable mention All-Conference USA last season. At 6-2 and 275 pounds, he lacks ideal size, but has a great feel for the position, and will get to the second level in a hurry.
To the left of Rae, at guard, will once again be 6-4, 317-pound senior Theo Goins . The veteran of 22 career starts up front is arguably the unit's most assertive run blocker, a powerful road-grader for the Knights. He, too, was named honorable mention All-Conference USA a year ago, and could use his finale to attract pro scouts' attention.
Holding down right guard will be 6-4, 310-pound junior Jordan McCraywho has learned the ropes off the bench the last seasons, even starting the UAB game last October. Strong at the point of attack, he has the hands to excel as a run and pass blocker once he gets more reps as a regular.
Next to McCray in the spring at right tackles was his twin brother, 6-4, 309-pound junior Justin McCray . He actually started five games in 2011, but still might need to elevate his game as a pocket protector in order to maintain a position atop the depth chart in the summer.
Protecting the backside of the quarterback will be 6-4, 306-pound sophomore Torrian Wilson . The member of last year's Conference USA All-Freshman Team started four games, showcasing a strong upper hand and improving footwork. It remains unsure if Chris Martin, a part-time starter in 2011, will be allowed back to the team after being suspended in the spring.
Watch Out For .... the impact of 6-5, 295-pound senior Phil Smith , a transfer from Georgia Tech. A very athletic tackle, with two years of starting experience in Atlanta, he'll bring leadership and depth to a group that needs both. There's a very good chance that he bumps McCray to the second team at right tackle.
Strength: Run blocking. The Knights are strong and blue-collar, a lunch pail group of workers at their best when muscling the other guys off the ball. They possess the necessary girth and attitude, especially on the inside, create running room for the team's talented collection of running backs.
Weakness: Pass protection. This is an ongoing problem that UCF has been unable to shake. Not only were the Knights 62nd nationally in sacks allowed, when the nimble Jeff Godfrey was behind center, but the team also attempted the fewest passes in Conference USA. Without Godfrey to bail them out on occasion, the tackles have to do a better job of keeping the pocket clean.
Outlook: The coaching staff believes that this unit showed considerable growth during the offseason. That had better be correct, because the fate of the offense hinges on it. Everyone is a year older, which ought to help. The real bump, though, is expected from Smith, who the Knights hope will immediately infuse ACC blocking skills and veteran leadership to the right of center.
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