Lineup changes, new challenges expected as football season kicks off
Published: Monday, August 13, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 13, 2012 13:08
With a promising lineup and spirits high for the 2012 football season, UCF’s final year in Conference USA should prove to be an exciting one.
Despite NCAA sanctions and looming threats of a null and void conference win, the Knights will play for pride, if nothing else. Talks of an appeal could potentially push off the punishment of a ban on postseason play, so all hope is not lost — especially with big teams like Ohio State and Missouri in the mix to bring more national recognition to the Knights’ wavering reputation.
With a strong senior lineup and promising young players, the season will kick off in Ohio. The Knights will battle the Akron Zips on Aug. 30, followed by a chance to tackle ESPN’s No. 14 ranked preseason team, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Under new head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes will deal with some growing pains entering into the season, which may give UCF enough room to sneak in and steal a win from the notorious school.
Likewise, UCF will have a chance to challenge the Missouri Tigers on Sept. 29 with another chance to beat a nationally ranked team. If UCF pulls off a win against Mizzou, it could be groundbreaking for the university. Mizzou’s transition to the Southeastern Conference from the Big 12 will bring even more recognition to the Knights if victorious.
In conference, the Knights will need to focus efforts on wins against Southern Mississippi and Eastern Carolina University. Because Southern Miss sits in the same eastern division as UCF, a win against the Golden Eagles will be pivotal in attempts to make it to the conference title game.
For pride’s sake, the UCF matchup against Florida International University will be one for the winning. After losing to the Panthers 17-10, the Knight’s embarrassing defeat will be motivation for this year’s game.
The Knights have showcased some definite strengths in their incoming lineup. The question this year will be if the Knights amp up their play from good to great. With more returning players this year, head coach George O’Leary said he sees this team to have the same strength and leadership as the players who took home the 2010 Liberty Bowl win. Likewise, an influx of talented young players should prove to help the Knights. The roster of talented running backs and overall defense will highlight where the Knights will shine.
However, there may be some hiccups in the offense if the Knights’ Blake Bortles doesn’t show consistency. Bortles showed flashes of talent last year but will need to keep the offense on task in the coming months.
Football beat writer Ryan Gillespie gives his take on key positions that may alter the Knights 2012 season in C-USA.
While all three of the Knights lead backs will get carries, the trio is competing for a role within the offense.
“We come out here really hard, and every day is a competition,” redshirt senior Brynn Harvey said.
Redshirt senior Latavius Murray, redshirt sophomore Storm Johnson and Harvey have all shown flashes of ability at various points in their careers at UCF. Murray was selected team MVP last season after rushing for 549 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Johnson looked like the team’s best player in spring camp and has the big play potential that the offense has lacked in years past.
Harvey was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2009, and also had a 219-yard game against Memphis in that same season.
Expect Murray to begin the season as the starter, but Johnson to take over the role sooner rather thank later. Harvey will probably be used to close games and kill clock.
Last year the Knights featured one of the nation’s best cornerback duos. After losing Josh Robinson to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL draft, UCF is looking to find the next man in line to play across from A.J. Bouye.
“I think basically at corner you have to be a mentally tough guy,” head coach George O’Leary said.
Among the names that have been tossed into the competition are sophomores Brandon Alexander and Jordan Ozerities.
Alexander appeared in 10 games last season, starting five. Alexander also got extensive work in spring camp with the starters.
“We had to play freshmen last year because of the injuries and I think it’s very, very difficult back there, not just physically, but mentally. I mean you get beat at the corner, everyone knows who got beat,” O’Leary said.
Ozerities was also named by O’Leary as a player back from injury who had a chance to start last season.
My prediction is that Alexander will win the job, with Ozerities getting time in the nickel package.
UCF has a smorgasbord of talent at wide receiver in 2012. The problem with that is that only five of them can get on the field at the same time, at most. We knew redshirt sophomores J.J. Worton and Josh Reese, true sophomore Rannell Hall and senior Quincy McDuffie would be in the mix this season. For those who paid attention to spring ball you are well aware of the emergence of true freshman Breshad Perriman.
The unexpected guests to the wide receiver house party are former quarterbacks Jeff Godfrey and Rob Calabrese.
In spring ball Perriman, Reese and McDuffie worked as the first team receivers. Worton was suspended, Godfrey wasn’t with the program and Calabrese was playing quarterback during spring camp.
Basically what we know right now is that there is a “Wild-Knight” package that Calabrese and Godfrey both are comfortable with, and the coaching staff is confident that this package can help seal a game.
Godfrey is determined to make an impact greater than gadget plays.