With the departure of 21 seniors, junior Breshad Perriman and redshirt sophomore Jacoby Glenn at the end of the 2014 season, UCF was left with a depleted receiving core and slightly less game experience on the defensive side of the football.
Nine players who saw defensive action in all 13 games last season are gone. Seven players who combined for 2,757 of the offense’s 3,059 yards through the air last season are gone as well.
But the one area that remains constant is the offensive line.
“Last year, we were looking for o-line. But I think this year, o-line is going to be pretty good,” said Chavis Dickey, who started 12 games at right tackle as a true freshman last season. “I think we’ve solidified most of the spots on o-line.”
Aside from Torrian Wilson, who started all 13 games last season, and Tarik Milner, who started seven but played in all 13, nine players from the offensive line are returning, including graduate student Joey Grant.
And the offensive lineman have had plenty of time to get acquainted with each other.
“I think everybody knows each other very well,” Dickey said with a grin. “I think we really bonded. I think we’re going to be a very good group this year.”
Through 14 days of preseason camp, Grant and quarterback Justin Holman have seemingly emerged as two key offensive leaders on the Knights’ experienced front line this season.
“I see myself as a leader. I’m a fifth-year senior. I’m a guy who’s been here the longest [and] played a lot of football,” Grant said. “It’s my job as a senior. And that’s something I’m taking head-on each and every day. [I’m] trying to be vocal, trying to allow these guys to see what I’m doing on the field and take after what seniors before me taught me.”
Even though O’Leary has said the team’s strategy is 60 percent run and 40 percent pass, Holman will likely have more time in the pocket, receiving greater pass protection from the experienced offensive line.
“We’ve got to protect Justin and allow him to do what he does and make plays. And to help him out even more, we’ve got to get the run game going,” Grant said.
At the team’s media day earlier this month, O’Leary noted that Holman’s accuracy had improved a great deal from last season, even referring to him as a young Nolan Ryan.
With more time in the pocket, he may be able to improve on his 56.9 completion percentage and reduce his 14 interceptions from 2014.
Holman feels the same way.
“I just feel more experienced, and I feel like I'm better able to lead because of my experiences,” he said at the team’s media day. “I know I have a lot of work to do. When you’re a quarterback, work is never finished. Once you feel like you know it all, it’s time to step away from the game, because there’s too much to learn, and you can always learn something.”
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.