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You can read the entire UCF Knights preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 National magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
American Athletic PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: George O'Leary, 60-55 (9 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Charlie Taaffe | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jim Fleming
Blake Bortles was a revelation at quarterback for UCF in 2012. This fall, he could be revealed to a much larger audience.
After throwing for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore, Bortles comes back in his second season as the starter with an offense that will look to air it out more, according to UCF coach George O’Leary.
The 6'5" quarterback has a full complement of weapons around him, most notably in a deep receiving corps that can beat you with size and speed, from the inside-out.
Sophomore Breshad Perriman, son of former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman, could have a big year after hauling in 26 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman. And J.J. Worton and Jeff Godfrey, a former quarterback, are matchup nightmares for opposing teams out of the slot.
The Knights are strong across the offensive line, led by left tackle Torrian Wilson.
Storm Johnson, who began his career at Miami, will get a chance to be the featured back this year with Latavius Murray headed to the NFL.
Bortles, though, is the most intriguing prospect of them all. And if he has the season coaches believe he is capable of, UCF could make some noise in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.
UCF lost a good chunk of veterans from last season’s team that allowed only 22.1 points per game, and O’Leary will look to young players to step into those roles this season.
The defensive line is the one area where the Knights may be better, boosted especially by the addition of 300-pounder Demetris Anderson at tackle and the solid pass-rushing ability of sophomore ends Thomas Niles and Deion Green. UCF struggled up front against the run in 2012, allowing 155.9 yards per game, but will be bigger and more physical this fall. Behind them, though, the picture is murkier.
Terrance Plummer will look to hold together the linebacking corps from the Mike position. The 6'1", 229-pound junior is entering his second full year as a starter, and he led the linebackers with 108 tackles last season. The spots around him could be a rotation, however.
In the secondary, UCF lost safety Kemal Ishmael and cornerback A.J. Bouye, and while juniors Clayton Geathers and Brandon Alexander both started last season, the Knights will look to freshmen to help fill the other spots.
It looks like redshirt freshman Caleb Houston has the early lead to replace Jamie Boyle, who averaged 40.6 yards per punt last year. The Knights expect Shawn Moffitt to hold onto his kicking job after he connected on 10-of-14 field goals last season. Replacing kickoff returner Quincy McDuffie, who had three return touchdowns and led the country in return average, will be a tough task.
The knock on UCF has long been its inability to string together winning seasons. With Bortles at the head of an experienced and versatile offense, the Knights feel like they’re primed to match their 10-win output from 2012 and silence those critics.
The key will be the growth and development on the other side of the ball, however.
If UCF can develop its defense and find the right players to plug into several key holes in the secondary and at linebacker, it might find a way to challenge for a conference title with the likes of Louisville and Cincinnati. If not, the Knights could struggle against a consistently higher level of competition than they ever faced in Conference USA.
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