UCF lost 19 starters, but have reloaded with back-to-back strong recruiting classes.
By: Athlon Sports | 6/6/11, 1:10 PM EDT
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C-USA East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: George O'Leary, 45-44 (7 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Charlie Taaffe | DEF. COORDINATOR: John Skladany
After relying on its defense to carry a heavy load during the past few years, the UCF offense should be the Knights’ biggest strength in 2011.
Dual-threat quarterback Jeff Godfrey is coming off a stellar freshman season. Godfrey went 159-of-238 passing for 2,159 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He finished among the top 15 quarterbacks in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 154.31. Godfrey also rushed for 566 yards and 10 touchdowns, setting the school rushing record for a quarterback. Look for Godfrey to stay in the pocket more during the 2011 season, using the strong arm that helped him set the Miami-Dade County high school career passing record.
The Knights’ offensive line has extensive experience. The linemen have promised Godfrey they won’t give up a sack in 2011. The group’s chemistry and work ethic will be the key to UCF’s success.
Junior Latavius Murray, the MVP of the Knights’ Liberty Bowl win over Georgia, leads a talented group of running backs. Junior Brynn Harvey, who earned first-team All-Conference USA honors in 2009, is back after missing last season with a torn ACL, as is senior Ronnie Weaver.
The Knights are looking for new leaders to take over the wide receiver rotation. A.J. Guyton, Quincy McDuffie, Marquee Williams, Khymest Williams, Josh Reese and J.J. Worton are all jockeying to prove they can be reliable playmakers for the Knights.
UCF lost back-to-back C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Miller, but a strong group of ends is eager to take over. Senior Darius Nall, junior Troy Davis, junior college transfer Toby Jackson and freshman LeBranden Richardson are all capable of racking up sacks. Sophomores Victor Gray and E.J. Dunston should take a big step forward after earning significant playing time at defensive tackle last season.
Juniors Kemal Ishmael and Josh Robinson, who earned first-team All-Conference USA honors in 2010, lead UCF’s strong secondary. Clayton Geathers, A.J. Bouye and Jordan Ozerities all should help UCF field a solid pass defense in 2011.
The Knights’ biggest holes are at linebacker following the departure of three veteran players. Senior Josh Linam returns as UCF’s starting middle linebacker, but all other spots on the depth chart were up for grabs during the offseason. Leilon Willingham, Ray Shipman, Loren Robinson, Jonathan Davis and junior college transfer Ray Cottman all should be in the mix for significant playing time. Shipman, the former Florida Gators basketball player who transferred to UCF to play football, took the biggest step forward during spring practice. Davis is undersized, but he has the tenacity to make plays.
McDuffie, who earned second team All-America honors, was a key reason UCF ranked No. 1 nationally in yards per kickoff return last season and is eager to put up better numbers in 2011. Senior kicker Nick Cattoi struggled last season and will have to fight several players for the starting job.
UCF lost 19 seniors, but the Knights have reloaded thanks to back-to-back highly rated recruiting classes. The team needs its young receivers and linebackers to embrace new roles, plugging the biggest holes on the depth chart. UCF’s offense should put the Knights in position to win a lot of games. If the defense can steadily improve throughout the season, UCF should return to the C-USA title game.