2007 UCF Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 7, 2007

Preview 2007 UCF Knight Offense


UCF Golden Knights

Preview 2007 - UCF Offense

- 2007 UCF Preview | 2007 UCF Defense Preview
- 2007 UCF Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN UCF Preview

What you need to know: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He’s as good as any back in the league when he’s healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don’t expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kyle Israel
108-166, 1,420 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Kevin Smith
206 carries, 934 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Rocky Ross
36 catches, 531 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Kevin Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star
: Senior WR Javid James
Unsung star on the rise
: Redshirt freshman WR Jevaughn Reams
Best pro prospect
: Smith
Top three all-star candidates
: 1) Smith  2) Junior LT Patrick Brown  3) Junior WR Rocky Ross
Strength of the offense
: The backfield, line experience
Weakness of the offense
: Quarterback depth, lack of big play receivers


Projected Starter: Despite only splitting time with Steven Moffett in 2006, senior Kyle Israel left no doubt that he’ll be the Knights’ starting quarterback for the upcoming season.  A veteran of 16 career games and five starts, he sizzled down the stretch, connecting on 35-of-42 passes in a two-game stint against Tulane and UAB.  Israel is a thick, 225-pound quarterback that moves surprisingly well outside the pocket and has the arm strength and accuracy to make all of his throws.  George O’Leary has had a chaotic time with his quarterbacks in Orlando, but Israel has the ability and the experience in the system to change that trend for one season.

Projected Top Reserves: The battle to back up Israel will come down to sophomore Marquel Neaseman and junior college transfer Michael Greco, a pair of very different quarterbacks.  Neaseman is a terrific all-around athlete, but at only 5-10 and 187 pounds, he’s a strong candidate to be shifted elsewhere when the new recruits arrive in August.  Originally a North Carolina State recruit, Greco is a 6-3, 220-pound lefty who played briefly for Pearl River (Miss.) Community College last fall before getting injured.  An exciting prospect for the Knights, he routinely runs in the 4.4s to go along with above average arm strength.

Watch Out For… Israel to evolve into the clear-cut leader of the Knight program.  He displayed a vocal, take-charge attitude throughout spring, showing a senior presence that was lacking last season.
Strength: Israel.  What better way to replace a three-year starting quarterback than with a senior who’s played plenty of football and finished last year hot?  
Weakness: Depth.  After Israel, no quarterback on the roster has taken a snap at this level, putting pressure on Greco to win the No. 2 job and immediately show he’s ready to contribute in case of an emergency.
Outlook: As long as his young receivers don’t implode under the microscope, Israel’s patience as Moffett’s long-time caddy will be rewarded with a productive final season in Orlando.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Junior Kevin Smith is one of the best kept secrets at running back in the country.  A 6-1, 211-pound runner with outstanding quickness and change-of-direction, he can take over games and is in line to become the premier runner in Conference USA now that Marshall’s Ahmad Bradshaw is in the NFL.  In two seasons with the Knights, Smith has rushed for 2,112 yards, 16 touchdowns and a healthy 4.6 yards per carry.  Before injuring his shoulder last November, he’d also increased his output as a receiver, a trend that’ll continue in 2007.  Smith looked quicker than ever in the off-season as he prepares for what should be the second 1,000-yard season of his college career. 

Leading the way for Smith will be sophomore Shane Smith, a bruising fullback who played in nine games last year and has decent hands out of the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves: The departure of Jason Peters has elevated sophomore Phillip Smith into the role of No. 2 back and potential sparkplug of the offense.  Another rangy 6-1 UCF back with breakaway potential, he’ll have no problems surpassing last year totals of 49 carries for 176 yards.  Senior Curtis Francis, the team’s primary punt returner, will be in the mix for playing time despite logging just 13 carries his entire career.  A smaller, quicker back than the Smiths, he’s more of a third-down option than a potential feature back. 

At 6-0 and 263 pounds, senior fullback Neil Bittong is a sledgehammer as a lead blocker in short yardage.  Strictly a mauler on offense, he also provides depth and experience at defensive tackle.

Watch Out For… a national breakthrough season from Smith.  If he can stay healthy for 12 games and get support from his blockers, he could have the type of year that gets scouts to start talking about his NFL future.
Strength: Smith.  A true workhorse that can carry an offense when he’s in a rhythm, Smith’s best football is ahead of him.
Weakness: Depth.  There had better not be any lingering effects from Smith’s shoulder injury because without Peters, the Knights are extremely thin and inexperienced in the backfield.
Outlook: Provided he gets support from the offensive line, Smith could go for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns this fall.  He’ll have to if UCF is going to once again boast a decent running attack.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: You can forget about one player stepping up and replacing current Jacksonville Jaguar Mike Walker.  It’s going to take two or three Knights to match his production, and even that might not be enough.  Junior Rocky Ross, last year’s second-leading pass catcher, is likely to be Kyle Israel’s go-to receiver.  He played real well down the stretch in 2006, carrying that momentum into a very solid off-season.  Easily the most sure-handed and reliable of the UCF receivers, the 6-2 Ross will have no trouble surpassing last year’s 36 receptions for 531 yards and two scores. 

On the opposite side will be senior Javid James who has a tentative hold on the starting job after catching just 24 passes and one touchdown in 2006.  Blessed with great size at 6-3 and 200 pounds, he’s yet to transform those natural gifts into a spike in production.  A slow start or inconsistent play from James could land him on the bench in favor of one of the eager Knight underclassmen. 

Back at tight end for a second straight year will be Mike Merritt, a hulking 6-3, 270-pound senior whose value to the offense is much closer to being a sixth lineman than a pass-catching threat.  Last fall, he started all 12 games, yet caught only three passes.                          
Projected Top Reserves: The Knights’ third receiver is junior Willie Thornton, one of the offense’s smaller receivers and a player with the speed to make plays behind a secondary.  He had 19 receptions for 275 yards and three scores last season, but needs to cut back on his dropped passes if those numbers are going to improve in 2007.  Hope for the future comes in the form of big and athletic redshirt freshmen Jevaughn Reams and Jamar Newsome.  There are the inevitable consistency issues, however, both players have exciting upside and opened enough eyes this past spring to push for substantial playing time in the fall.  Reams caught everything in April and spent some time moonlighting with the first team. 

Merritt’s better half at tight end is sophomore Corey Rabazinski who started more than any other UCF true freshman in 2006.  He also led the program’s tight ends with 12 catches and is easily the better option of the two at making plays downfield.

Watch Out For… Ross to pull down at least 60 catches.  He’s not going to make the locals forget about Walker, but he’s a fundamentally sound receiver that’s already forged a chemistry with Israel that’ll benefit both in 2007.
Strength: Size.  In Orlando, they like their receivers big enough to create match up problems with average-sized defensive backs.  This year’s Knights feature four key wideouts that are at least 6-2 and physical.
Weakness: Big-play potential.  With Walker’s 4.3 speed now in NFL, the Knights lack the kind of receiver that can stretch defenses and really challenge the league’s better corners.  They’ll live underneath and on intermediate routes in 2007.
Outlook: For now, this is an average, one-trick corps of receivers that desperately needs an up-and-comer, such as Reams, to be as good in October as he was in April.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: This group of Knights has played a lot of football, returning six lettermen and four starters from last year’s edition.  The anchor will be senior Kyle Smith, who’s started 32 consecutive games and is permanently moving from guard to center to fill the vacancy left by Cedric Gagne-Marcoux.  A very physical blocker that’s quick enough to kick out on running plays, he started five games at the pivot last year and has been progressing well with the nuances of his new assignment, such as shotgun snaps. 

For the third year in-a-row, senior Josh Sitton and junior Patrick Brown will be holding down the fort at tackle.  On the right side, Sitton has become a mainstay on run downs, but at 6-3 and 324 pounds, can sometimes be a step slow in pass protection.  Brown is quickly becoming one of the team’s steadiest blockers, adding weight and getting stronger in the off-season after appearing as an honorable mention all-Conference USA lineman a year ago. 

Right guard L.J. Anderson has started 22 games the last two years and is poised for bigger things in 2007.  The junior has the feet and athleticism to play the position, needing now to become a more physical drive blocker on running plays.  The baby of the bunch is sophomore Jeramy DeVane who got some valuable on-the-job training as a true freshman late last year.  He’ll make mistakes and still has a way to go with his fundamentals, but the staff really likes his potential to be the eventual star of this line in another year or so.  

Projected Top Reserves: Guard Dominic Ignelzi is the senior member of the second unit with 33 games of experience and the ability to play any line position except center.  Undersized at only 275 pounds, he’s more of a finesse blocker than a mauler.  One of the goals for the line this year will be to bring along towering redshirt freshmen tackles Jah Reid and Mike Buxton.  While still raw, the 6-7 Reid has trimmed 50 pounds from last season, looking far more ready to contribute as Sitton’s backup.  Reid actually looks up to the 6-8 Buxton who’s physically ahead of the curve, but like most freshmen, needs to improve at protecting the quarterback.  

Watch Out For … Sophomore Clifford McCray.  McCray had a bunch of offers coming out of high school, however, medical problems in his senior year made those disappear.  Now a walk-on with the Knights, he played well enough in the spring to get some reps with the first unit, and with seasoning, has a chance to move a guard or center off the second team.
Strength: Experience.  Six UCF linemen have seen significant playing time over the past few years so there are no excuses for this group not to gel into a cohesive unit that protects Kyle Israel and creates space for Kevin Smith.
Weakness: Tackle depth.  Although the staff is high on Reid and Buxton, it hopes it won’t have to lean too heavily on the unpolished redshirt freshmen in 2007.
Outlook: If the five starters remain relatively healthy this fall, they’ll form the most consistent front wall George O’Leary has had at UCF since arriving at the school three years ago.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2007 UCF Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 6, 2007
2007 UCF Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 6, 2007
2007 UCF Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 6, 2007

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