Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN UCF Preview
2008 UCF Offense
2008 CFN UCF
2008 UCF Depth
2007 CFN UCF Preview
2006 CFN UCF Preview
need to know:
In light of the problems on the other side of the ball, the
defense may have to carry the offense in the early stages of the
season. The unit welcomes back nine starters, 10 if you count LB
Jordan Richards, who was slated to start before suffering a
season-ending injury. The secondary, in particular, is flush
with senior talent, led by all-leaguers Joe Burnett and Sha’Reff
Rashad. It was those two ball hawks, along with Jason Venson and
Johnell Neal that helped UCF lead the conference with two dozen
picks a year ago. The defense’s biggest objective will be to
find replacements for DE Leger Douzable and DT Keith Shologan,
the line’s best pass rusher and run-stuffer, respectively. If
they can stay healthy for a change, the Cory Hogue-led
linebackers will be deep and disruptive.
Derrick Hallman, 3
Interceptions: Joe Burnett, Johnell Neal, 6
Star of the
Senior CB Joe Burnett
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Derrick Hallman
Best pro prospect: Burnett
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Burnett 2) Senior SS
Sha’reff Rashad 3) Senior FS Jason Venson
Strength of the defense: The secondary, creating
Weakness of the defense: Depth on the interior, a true
speed rusher off the edge
It’ll be a mixed bag for a defensive line that has plenty of
talent at defensive end, but depth concerns at defensive
tackle. On the outside, the Knights will open with sophomores
Bruce Miller and David Williams, a couple of
high-motor pass rushers that’ll out work opposing tackles to get
to the quarterback. Miller is a 6-2, 249-pound Freshman
All-American that fought his way to 38 tackles, nine tackles for
loss, and seven sacks. Neither the biggest nor the fastest end
in the league, he’s strong up top and always plays to the
Williams is a Miller clone, built like a linebacker at 6-2 and
234 pounds, yet frenetic and not about to be out worked. After
playing sparingly as a freshman, he parlayed a dominant spring
into a spot in the regular rotation.
At tackle, juniors Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons
are experienced linemen that have lettered in each of the last
two seasons. Troup, formerly known as Johnson, has the 6-3,
320-pound frame to command two blockers and clog opposing
running lanes. Quicker than he appears and tough to handle
one-on-one, he had 19 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and two
sacks, only scratching the surface of his enormous potential.
The 6-4, 285-pound Timmons gained valuable experience as a
regular in the Knight rotation up front, making 17 tackles, 3.5
tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Ready or not, one of the gems
of the 2006 recruiting class is about to get a sharp increase in
playing time at a position that no longer has an excess of
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Antonio Wallace
played a lot of football for UCF a year ago, his first at
defensive end. A former linebacker that’s bulked up to 6-2 and
251 pounds, he used his speed and quickness to contribute 30
tackles, four tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. At 6-3 and 230
pounds, sophomore Darius Nall is a situational edge
rusher that made a successful switch from linebacker to
defensive end as a first-year player. Appearing in 13 games, he
finished the year with 22 tackles, four tackles behind the line,
and a sack.
Depth at tackle will have to come from a trio of untested and
undersized walk-ons that’s comprised of Jeremy Green,
Marquis Johnson, and Brian Timm.
Watch Out For… DE Jarvis Geathers. A
transfer from Feather River (Calif.) Community College, Geathers
attracted offers from across the country for his ability to get
to the quarterback. Just 6-2 and 215 pounds, he’s a blur around
the tackle, which the Knights are lacking on defense.
Strength: The ends. While Miller and Williams are
going to wear out opposing tackles for four quarters, Wallace,
Nall, and Geathers bring instant speed off the bench.
Weakness: Depth at tackle. Troup and Timmons are
a formidable pair on the inside, but if either needs a breather
or gets injured, the Knights will be severely hamstrung in run
Outlook: As long as everyone stays healthy, the
Knights have the ingredients of one of the league’s more
productive defensive lines. If, however, there are any
casualties, especially at tackle, teams will be able to run the
ball without too much resistance.
In just over a year, the UCF linebackers have gone from being a
major unknown to one of the deepest positions on the roster.
The leader of a unit that returns six players with starting
experience is 6-1, 228-pound senior Cory Hogue, who’s
coming off a lights out spring session. A read and react wiz
from the strongside, he had 72 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss,
and a sack, laying the groundwork for what could be an
all-league final season.
At weakside, sophomore Derrick Hallman may be just 6-0
and 205 pounds, but is also a big hitter and one of the
defense’s best all-around athletes. As an emergency freshman
starter, he flew all over the field, making 50 tackles, 9.5
tackles for loss, and three sacks.
In the middle, the Knights will again turn to junior Chance
Henderson, a second-year starter that had 74 tackles, seven
tackles for loss, and a sack last season. A stout run defender
at 6-1 and 241 pounds, he loves contact and will rarely miss a
tackle in the open field.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jordan Richards
was scheduled to start a year ago before suffering a season-long
injury. Healthy again, he’ll be competing with Hallman for
playing time, and at worst, providing veteran depth to the
second team. One of the fastest of the linebackers at 6-2 and
226 pounds, he has upside, but has never been able to remain out
of the trainer’s room for an extended period of time.
Henderson’s insurance policy inside is junior Alex Thompson,
who started a pair of games in 2007, finishing the season with
11 tackles. While little threat to Henderson’s job, his 15
games of experience is a valuable asset to the second unit.
Sophomore Lawrence Young was one of just a handful of
freshmen to play extensively as a rookie, collecting 31 tackles,
2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Like Hallman, he’s
safety-sized at 6-0 and 212 pounds, but has tremendous range and
Watch Out For… Hallman. While he doesn’t have
prototypical size for the position, he is a playmaker that’ll
only get better with more experience. One of the budding stars
of the UCF defense, he can wreak havoc on the blitz and cover
like a safety.
Strength: Depth. Injuries over the past two
seasons have forced the Knights to use a bunch of players a year
earlier than they would have liked. Now that everyone is
healthy, the program boasts a two-deep that’s experienced and
Weakness: Size. As players like Hogue and Hallman
take on more prominent roles, UCF has become more finesse than
physical at the second line of defense. Some of this year’s
thicker opponents, such as Boston College and Miami, will
present problems for an undersized ensemble that relies so
heavily on its quickness.
Outlook: It’s a big “if”, but if the linebackers
can finally go the year injury-free, they’ll form a disruptive
group that can defend the run and the pass equally well.
Depending on who gets the majority of the tackles, Hogue,
Hallman, and Henderson all have the potential to deliver
The defensive backfield will easily be UCF’s most experienced
unit, as all four senior starters are back from a year ago. The
star of the quartet is CB Joe Burnett, a 5-11, 185-pound
playmaker and one of the best overall athletes on the roster. A
risk-taker that’ll get burned every once in a while, he’s a
quality cover man with 12 career interceptions, half of which
came a year ago. In his best season so far, he had 64 tackles,
three tackles for loss, six picks, and a dozen batted balls, en
route to being named First Team All-Conference USA.
Burnett will be joined at cornerback by a familiar face,
fourth-year starter Johnell Neal, who matched Burnett’s
six takeaways to go along with 56 tackles and 10 passes
defended. Surprisingly tough for a 5-10, 176-pound defensive
back, he’s not shy about pressing up to support the run defense.
At strong safety, Sha’reff Rashad is a do-everything
defensive back that can play the run with the same ferocity as
the pass. A fundamentally sound tackler at 6-0 and 198 pounds,
he led the defense with 103 stops, added eight tackles for loss,
and had four picks for a second straight year.
Rashad will be joined by strong safety Jason Venson, who
has a knack for always being around the ball. Either first or
second on the team in tackles for three years in-a-row, he had a
career-high 92 stops to along with five tackles for loss, two
picks, and seven pass breakups.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Emery Allen
is the most battle-tested of the backup cornerbacks, a two-time
letterwinner with starting experience. Just 5-9 and 176 pounds,
he has the speed and back-pedal to shut down opposing receivers,
provided his limited stature doesn’t become an issue.
While sophomore Darin Baldwin will almost certainly be a
starter by 2009, for now, he’ll add depth at corner and provide
an option in nickel packages. At 5-11 and 190 pounds, he’s
shown hints of being outstanding in pass coverage, playing in
nine games as a true freshman with 17 tackles, two tackles for
loss, and his first interception.
Strong safety Justin Boddie also played well as a
freshman, chalking up 20 tackles and picking off a pair of
passes. Well-sized at 6-2 and 190 pounds, he’ll take over for
Rashad once this season ends.
Watch Out For… the second team to get more reps
than a year ago. Well, at least in one-sided games. Since all
four starters are seniors, the coaching staff recognizes the
need to get the Baldwins and Boddies ready for 2009 without
negatively impacting the season at hand.
Strength: Chemistry. You can’t underestimate the
importance chemistry has to the performance of a unit. More
than just seasoned, this group of defensive backs knows each
other’s tendencies inside and out, and has played a ton of
football together over the last three years.
Weakness: Pass coverage. Yeah, they’re
experienced and athletic, but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact
that UCF has allowed a whopping 48 touchdown passes over the
last two seasons, including 26 a year ago. Somehow, the Knights
have to figure out a way to limit the big plays and third down
conversions through the air.
Outlook: While not quite the 2007 UCF
secondary, the similarities are there. The secondary is
talented enough to make the other two units more effective, as
long as there continues to be enough takeaways to compensate for
the inevitable blown coverages.
Topping the list of priorities for special teams coach Brent Key
will be to find a replacement for K Michael Torres, who nailed
20-of-24 field goals a year ago. Key is putting a lot of faith
in sophomore Jordan Dodds, a transfer from South Carolina
that sat out last season. At 5-11 and 210 pounds, he needs to
become more consistent to go along with a strong leg. Dodds is
being challenged by a couple of redshirt freshmen walk-ons,
Salvatore Dimauro and Kyle Iketani. Dimauro had a
successful high school career, which he hopes will translate to
the college game.
There’s far less uncertainty at punter, where sophomore Blake
Clingan is back for his second season as the starter. In
his debut, he averaged 40.7 and showed good loft and hang time
on his punts. At 6-3 and 221 pounds, Clingan has a big leg, and
his fine-tuned his fundamentals in the offseason.
Although shifty kick returner must be replaced, the Knights
welcome back Joe Burnett, one of the game’s most
dangerous punt returners. In three seasons, he’s taken two back
for touchdowns, showing great speed in the open field.
Watch Out For… the situation at kicker. Torres
was a quiet hero in last season’s title run. Now it’s up to
Dodds to be equally accurate when the offense stalls in opposing
Strength: Burnett. If you give the senior a seam
or even a hint of daylight, he’s capable of supercharging the
crowd and changing the tempo of a game.
Weakness: The kicking game. Torres raised the bar
by missing just four field goals a year ago, heaping pressure on
Dodds and the freshmen to deliver clutch kicks late in close
Outlook: With the return game and the coverage
units clicking, UCF will be among Conference USA’s best special
teams units if the new kicker isn’t a glaring liability.