2009 CFN UCF Preview
UCF RB Brynn Harvey
UCF RB Brynn Harvey
Posted Jul 29, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - UCF Knights

UCF Knights

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2009 CFN UCF Preview | 2009 UCF Offense
- 2009 UCF Defense | 2009 Depth Chart
- 2008 UCF Preview | 2007 UCF Preview | 2006 UCF Preview

Head coach: George O'Leary
5th year: 22-28
12th year overall: 74-61
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best UCF Players
1. DE Bruce Miller, Jr.
2. DT Torrell Troup, Sr.
3. RB Brynn Harvey, Soph.
4. WR Rocky Ross, Sr.
5. LB Lawrence Young, Jr.
6. LB Cory Hogue, Sr.
7. DE Jarvis Geathers, Sr.
8. FS Derrick Hallman, Jr.
9. WR Kamar Aliken, Jr.
10. WR Brian Watters, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6

2009 Results: 0-0

9/5 Samford
9/12 at Southern Miss
9/19 Buffalo
9/26 at East Carolina
10/3 Memphis
10/17 Miami
10/24 at Rice
11/1 Marshall
11/7 at Texas
11/14 Houston
11/21 Tulane
11/28 at UAB

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

2008 Results: 4-8

Aug. 30 S Carolina St W 17-0
Sept. 5 South Florida L 31-24 OT
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 at Boston Coll L 34-7
Sept. 27 at UTEP L 58-13
Oct. 4 SMU W 31-17
Oct. 11 at Miami L 20-14
Oct. 26 at Tulsa L 49-19
Nov. 2 East Carolina L 13-10 OT
Nov. 8 Southern Miss L 17-6
Nov. 15 at Marshall W 30-14
Nov. 22 at Memphis W 28-21
Nov. 29 UAB L 15-0
Liberty Bowl
Dec. 29 Miss State L 10-3
Just when you think you’ve got a handle on UCF, it goes ahead and vexes everyone.

The Knights’ recent historical results read like an EKG, going up and down from year to year. Their two division-winning seasons, for instance, came on the heels of a winless and a four-win campaign. And then there was last year’s unexpected result. Fresh off their first-ever conference championship and flush with veteran players, UCF was dragged down by a terrible offense, winning just four times.

The memory of last season still fresh in their minds, the Knights have set their sights set on rebounding, a familiar refrain in these parts. Head coach George O’Leary made one notable change to his staff in the off-season, enlisting veteran coordinator Charlie Taaffe as the caretaker of the troubled offense. While the defense is in capable hands, the offense holds the key that unlocks UCF’s return to prosperity. No, the unit doesn’t have to be great in 2009, but 16 points and 229 yards a game just isn’t going to cut it. O’Leary went back to his New York roots two years ago to sign QB Rob Calabrese, who’s already being asked to play older than his age.

With the facilities, talent base, and coaching staff at UCF, this program has no business going 4-8 in Conference USA. O’Leary and his staff are working hard to erase the memory of last season. If history can be trusted, they’ll be successful.

What to watch for on offense: New offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe. Brought over by George O’Leary to revive the offense, he’s got an extensive track record in the college game and a reputation as a teacher. His most important pupil in 2009 will be sophomore QB Rob Calabrese, who needs a dedicated mentor to guide him. Although he’s installing a pro-style offense with hints of the option, he’ll still be flexible and adaptive to the talent in the program. At least in the beginning, there’ll be plenty of one-back sets, which is great news for sophomore Brynn Harvey, last year’s leading rusher and a budding star.   

What to watch for on defense: The development of the rebuilt defensive backfield. There’s just no preparation for losing all four starters, especially when they’ve been contributing since their freshmen years. However, life goes on in Orlando. The Knights do have the luxury of boasting the best front seven in Conference USA. Now, it’s up to converted LB Derrick Hallman and a trio of career backups to rise up in a league that’s becoming defined by its high-octane passing attacks. The favorites to join Hallman in the starting lineup are strong safety Reggie Weams and corners Emery Allen and Darin Baldwin.   

The team will be far better if … the offense gets a pulse. The Knights were fitted for a toe tag a year ago, averaging 16 points and a nation’s-low 229 yards a game. The defense will keep UCF in a bunch of games, but obviously, the offense needs to end the futility if the program is going to elevate beyond last year’s 4-8 disappointment. There are some parts to build around, namely at the skill positions, but it won’t matter if the play at quarterback doesn’t improve and the offensive line doesn’t gel right away. Last year’s front wall was terrible, and that was when second team All-Conference USA LT Patrick Brown was still around.

The Schedule: There might be a road trip to Texas, but the non-conference slate isn't all that awful with Samford and Buffalo going to Orlando along with a huge statement game against Miami. Conference-wise, it's nasty getting a bad break facing Houston from the West while going on the road to play Southern Miss and East Carolina. The East battles against the Golden Eagles and the Pirates are both in September, meaning UCF will know exactly where it stands in the C-USA race by October 1st. There aren't two road games in a row there's a nice run of four home games in five against league teams.

Best offensive Player: Sophomore RB Brynn Harvey. Harvey answered the Knights’ clarion call for a successor to Kevin Smith, leading the team in rushing as a true freshman. He ran for 519 yards on 125 carries, having most of his success at the end of the year. With a full season as the focal point of the offense, he’ll have a chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher and one of the league’s better backs in just his second year on campus.

Best offensive Player: Junior DE Bruce Miller. No one this side of Mickey Mouse works harder than Miller in Orlando. A self-made star, he provides 60 minutes of non-stop energy and intensity to opposing tackles. Despite being undersized and lightly-recruited coming out of high school, he was one of Conference USA’s top defender as a sophomore, making 52 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks, and 11 quarterback hurries.                   

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Rob Calabrese. The UCF passing game, which Calabrese was a part of, was among the nation’s worst in 2008, averaging 116 yards a game and a measly 4.5 yards an attempt. He was only a true freshman, so he had an excuse, but now it’s time to make a leap forward. If the Knight offense, as a whole, is going to recover, it’s up to Calabrese to keep defenses honest and make better use of an underrated receiving corps.    

The season will be a success if ... UCF returns to the bowl season. With early road games at East Division foes Southern Miss and East Carolina, a return to the Conference USA title game might be asking for the moon. However, this program has too much going for it, from its talent to its facilities, to miss out on the postseason for a second straight year. Texas and Miami are on the non-conference schedule, so UCF’s quest for bowl eligibility will require little margin for error in league games.

Key game: Sept. 26 at East Carolina. If the Knights have dreams of a second conference crown in the last three years, it’ll have to defeat the defending champs in Greenville. East Carolina has owned UCF lately, winning the last three in this series, so there’ll be revenge in play as well. Facing one of the league’s stingiest defenses on the road will be a good barometer for Charlie Taaffe’s beleaguered offense.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: UCF 26 (lost 14) - Opponents 15 (lost 8)
- Yards per game: Opponents 333.8 - Opponents 229.5
- Punt return average: UCF 13.2 - Opponents 4.0