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2008 UCF Preview - Offense
UCF OT Pat Brown
UCF OT Pat Brown
Posted May 20, 2008 2008 Preview - UCF Offense

UCF Golden Knights

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN UCF Preview | 2008 UCF Offense
- 2008 CFN UCF Defense | 2008 UCF Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN UCF Preview | 2006 CFN UCF Preview

What you need to know: Considering the gaping hole that exists in the running game, the Knights are going to need more production from a passing attack that was last in the league and 105th nationally a season ago. The battle to replace Kyle Israel at quarterback will focus on Joe Weatherford, brother of Florida State’s Drew Weatherford, and Michael Greco, a 220-pound dual-threat southpaw that conjures up images of Tim Tebow light. As if the running game needed more problems, Phillip Smith, Kevin Smith’s successor, suffered a lower leg injury and finished the spring on crutches. If he’s unavailable for any length of time, UCF will be forced to dig deep into the roster, relying on unknowns, such as James Jamison and Ronnie Weaver. Led by starters Rocky Ross and Kamar Aiken, the receivers will be a strength if they can cut down on dropped passes.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Michael Greco
24-45, 303 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Phillip Smith
52 carries, 246 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Rocky Ross
50 catches, 658 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Rocky Ross
Player who has to step up and become a star
: Junior RB Phillip Smith
Unsung star on the rise
: Sophomore WR Kamar Aiken
Best pro prospect
: Senior RT Patrick Brown
Top three all-star candidates
: 1) Brown 2) Ross 3) Aiken
Strength of the offense
: The receivers
Weakness of the offense
: Uncertainty in the backfield, the right side of the line


Projected Starter: The Knights have an opening under center that’ll be filled by either junior Michael Greco or redshirt freshman Joe Weatherford. Greco is more experienced and the far better athlete, exiting spring with a clear edge in the competition. After brief stops at NC State and Pearl River (Miss.) Community College, the 6-3, 220-pound lefty has found a home in Orlando and gradually emerged as one of the vocal leaders of the offense. A terrific all-around athlete that can break containment and routinely runs in the 4.4 range, Greco is at his best on short and intermediate routes. As Kyle Israel’s backup, he appeared in nine games, throwing for 303 yards and rushing for 128 yards and two scores.

Projected Top Reserves: At worst, Weatherford will be the first option off the bench for George O’Leary. The younger brother of Florida State’s starting quarterback, he’s more of a prototypical drop-back passer than Greco. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, he has a nice pocket presence and can make all the throws, but has a lot to learn fundamentally and needs to become more assertive in the huddle. While Weatherford is the future at the position, he has a lot of ground to cover in the summer to overtake Greco.

Watch Out For… new wrinkles in the playbook that take advantage of Greco’s athletic ability. Now that Israel and RB Kevin Smith are out of the equation, the Knights are about to become more finesse and less power. Greco has a chance to be the headliner in that philosophical shift.
Strength: Mobility. Greco’s ability to escape the pocket and make throws on the move is a new dimension to the offense and an added challenge for UCF’s opponents to scheme against.
Weakness: Proven passers. Until the season starts, no one really knows if Greco will be the type of quarterback that relies on his legs too much, bolting from the pocket whenever his first option is blanketed. His backups, Weatherford and Nate Tice, have yet to take a snap in college.
Outlook: Greco’s biggest challenge won’t be succeeding Israel, who underachieved as the starter, but rather taking over an offense that no longer has Smith in the backfield. If he can prove himself as a passer, the Knights will have a starter for the next two seasons, allowing Weatherford to mature at a modest pace.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: There’s no simple way to replace Kevin Smith, who led the country with 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. The task got a little harder when last year’s No. 2, junior Phillip Smith, injured his lower leg in the spring. The extent of the injury isn’t known, but if he’s out for any length of time, the fate of the running game will be in the hands of a bunch of unknowns with no experience. Smith was second on the team with 246 and four touchdowns on 52 carries, most coming in blowouts of Memphis and SMU. A rangy 6-1, 194-pound slasher, he’s got the outside speed needed to get around the corner and into the secondary in a hurry. Although Phillip isn’t going to be Kevin, he does have 1,000-yard potential if health isn’t an issue.

Sophomore Ricky Kay will be the fullback a year after playing in 14 games and starting a pair. A bruising 6-3, 245-pound walk-on, he won’t be asked to carry the ball, but did have six receptions for 60 yards as a true freshman.

Projected Top Reserves: After Smith was injured in March, redshirt freshman Ronnie Weaver took most of the reps with the first team. A 6-0, 202-pound former walk-on, he’s a hard worker with deceptive speed and the ability to pick up tough yards between the tackles. Sophomore James Jamison is a converted defensive back that switched sides of the ball to bolster the backfield. He’s shown a nice burst and decent speed for a 5-11, 215-pound runner. At 6-0 and 206 pounds, senior Jayson Williams is another Knight that’s making the move from the secondary. A special teams lifer, he’ll be getting his first opportunity to make plays with the ball in his hands.

Watch Out For… the incoming freshmen. It’s a good thing that the Knights loaded up on running backs in the offseason because they’ll need at least one of them to contribute right now. Brynn Harvery and Latavius Murray, in particular, are big backs capable of scaling the depth in August.
Strength: Smith. Assuming he’s 100%, Smith has the physical attributes to slowly begin stepping out of that other Smith’s tall shadow. He’s not going to challenge Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing mark, but he’s good enough to take heat off the new quarterback.
Weakness: No proven feature back. Hey, the drop-off from was going to be precipitous no matter what, but it wouldn’t have been so bad if there was a proven commodity waiting in the wings. You know team depth is a crisis when half the spring backs were recently defensive backs.
Outlook: The Knights need someone to step up and assume the role of every-down back. If they’re unsuccessful, a running game by committee will be employed, and the offense will lean more on the running ability of QB Michael Greco.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: Senior Rocky Ross will be part player and part teacher for the Knights, serving as the No. 1 option in the passing game, while mentoring a very young corps of receivers. He catches everything thrown in his direction, runs tight routes, and is clutch on third downs. The 6-2, 196-pound Ross is coming off a career year, catching a team-high 50 passes for 658 yards and two touchdowns. His partner will be sophomore Kamar Aiken, a more dynamic big play threat coming off a terrific rookie season. A surprise 12-game starter, the 6-2, 205-pounder caught 33 balls for 584 yards and five touchdowns. More important than averaging almost 18 yards a catch, Aiken showed signs of being a complete receiver and a rising star in Conference USA.

Junior Corey Rabazinski is back for a third year as the UCF tight end. Since breaking through as a true freshman, he’s made 26 appearances and started in 15 games, serving as an occasional option in the passing game. At 6-3 and 243 pounds, Rabazinski caught his first two touchdowns a year ago, but isn’t going to simulate a sixth guard as a blocker.

Projected Top Reserves
: The kiddie corps on the second team was supposed to be led by 5-10, 188-pound sophomore A.J. Guyton, who was fourth on the team with 23 receptions for 253 yards and two scores. However, a torn ACL in the spring means he’ll likely be redshirted in 2008.

Behind Ross is sophomore Sidney Haynes, a massive 6-4 and 214-pound target that played sparingly as a true freshman. Following a terrific offseason, he’s ready to be a major contributor that can out muscle defenders on short routes or stretch a secondary on deep fade patterns.

Although Brian Watters doesn’t get the notoriety of the other sophomores, he quietly had a solid rookie season, catching 14 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Lightly recruited out of high school, the 6-2, 180-pounder does the little things well, including having some of the best hands on the team.

While Rabazinski is the starter at tight end, redshirt freshman Adam Nissley is making sure he doesn’t get too comfortable. A 6-6, 260-pound beast, he floored the coaching staff in the spring with his soft hands and devastating blocks on running plays. If Nissley, who played in the Wing-T in high school, keeps progressing as a pass-catcher, he’ll be hard to keep off the field.

Watch Out For… Haynes. While he won’t start, the sophomore’s blend of size and speed has the Knights thinking they might have the second coming of Mike Walker.
Strength: Size. In Orlando, they like their pass-catchers big enough to create match up headaches for average-sized defensive backs. The top three receivers are all 6-2 or taller, and Haynes and Aiken are at least 205 pounds.
Weakness: Ball security. With youth comes a cost. For the Knights, that means a few more dropped passes than George O’Leary can tolerate.
Outlook: The receivers will be more reliable than last year, when freshmen dominated the three-deep. Now that seven of those rookies are sophomores, the Knights expect Ross to get extra support. With the senior commanding attention underneath, Aiken and Haynes will have lots of chances to make big plays against man coverage.
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Entering his fourth season as a starter, senior Patrick Brown will be the anchor of a Knight line that’ll be breaking in three new starters. An agile 6-5, 292-pounder that’s started 38 straight games, he’s prepared to break through after earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors in consecutive seasons. Over on the right side will be sophomore Jah Reid, a raw player with the size to eventually grow into a very productive player. Now a trimmed-down 6-7 and 320 pounds, he has the long arms to wall off rushers and four games of starting experience that’ll benefit him in his third season in Orlando.

Senior Mike Lavoie has been a pleasant surprise in the offseason, calming some of the Knights’ fears about having a new starter at center. A 6-5, 292-pound career backup on the line and special teams, he’s loaded with experience in the system, but needs to prove he can handle the responsibility of being the every down guy at the pivot.

Junior Jeramy DeVane is the veteran at guard, having been the starter for half of his sophomore season. The 6-3, 300-pounder still has plenty of upside, getting a good push in the running game, yet needing to improve as a pass protector. Devane split time with Cliff McCray, who has since left the program. Taking advantage of the opening has been Cody Minnich, a senior coming off the best spring of his Knight career. A former 6-3, 296-pound walk-on with no game experience, he spent most of March on the right side with the first unit, while showing the versatility to play some tackle.

Projected Top Reserves
: Sophomore Wes Sauvao has made the move from defensive tackle in order to provide competition to the guards. A physical 6-3, 300-pounder, he’s picked up the offense quickly, impressing the staff with how well he moves off the snap. Joining Sauvao on the second team is 6-7, 296-pound Nick Pieschel, who’s made terrific strides since his rookie season. A fluid athlete for his size, he could be a tackle at some point in his career.

Setting the pace at tackle for the reserves is a pair of imposing underclassmen, sophomore Mike Buxton and redshirt freshman Billy Offutt. While Offutt is 6-6 and 305 pounds, Buxton is 6-8 and 314 pounds. Both figure prominently in the program’s future, particularly with Brown down to his final year of eligibility.

Watch Out For… the play of Lavoie. It’s one thing to open a few eyes in the spring. However, it’s another thing entirely to handle the most important position on the line once games begin. Lavoie has limited relevant experience, which the staff hopes won’t become evident in September.
Strength: Brown. He’s one of the steadiest linemen in Conference USA, and if lefty Michael Greco is under center, Brown will be guarding the quarterback’s front side for the first time in his career.
Weakness: Everything to the right of Brown. Minnich and Lavoie are nice stories, but there’s a reason they haven’t played much over the last three years. Ideally, they’re the type of players that provide depth on the B team, rather than hold down jobs in a sketchy starting lineup.
Outlook: The unsung heroes in Kevin Smith’s 2,000-yard season, the UCF offensive line won’t be nearly as heralded this fall. The right side of the unit is a flashing weakness, and Lavoie has plenty to prove in his first season as a starting center.
Rating: 5.5