The big 2014 UCF football preview: Knights are at a different level

Christian Petersen

UCF needed some good fortune and a great quarterback to finish 12-1 in 2013, but even without Blake Bortles, the Knights are still the surest thing in the new-look AAC. George O'Leary has built the fastest, deepest program in the conference.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Watch the throne

There have been setbacks, of course. In 2006, after an 8-5 breakthrough, UCF went 4-8. The Knights bounced to 10-4, then dropped to 4-8. They went 19-8 in 2009-10, then lost six one-possession games and fell to 5-7. But the slope was positive. Each time UCF improved under George O'Leary, the bar got raised. And in the last two years, the setbacks have been minimal, and the bar has only gone higher.

Since the start of 2012, O'Leary's squad has gone 22-5. The Knights have lost to Ohio State, Missouri, and South Carolina and are 22-2 against everybody else. They won at Louisville and Penn State, thumped Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished 12-1 in 2013. They not only ended the season in the polls for the second time ever, they finished 10th.

So is this where we see another setback? UCF has to replace a quarterback who's likely to go in the top 10 of the NFL Draft. An 1,100-yard rusher, three all-conference offensive linemen, and a strong defensive tackle are also gone. Plus, the Knights were 7-1 in one-possession games a year ago, which is unsustainable. UCF has been at one extreme or the other in close games recently, and that could very easily skew in the other direction with a new quarterback.

Still, the receiving corps is loaded for the new quarterback, and the defense returns almost everybody from the two-deep. UCF could offset offensive regression with defensive progression. There are former three- and four-star recruits in every unit on both sides of the ball. The Knights have a couple of questions to answer, but they will start 2014 on a different tier from everybody else in the conference.

UCF might not have been the best team in the conference last season -- for the season as a whole, the numbers say that was still Louisville, which finished 12th in the F/+ rankings to UCF's 21st -- but the Knights are now far and away the most proven, accomplished, well-established program in the new AAC. George O'Leary has not only brought a high level of success to Orlando, he's also built the foundation of the program in a slow, steady fashion. There just aren't many holes to fill here.

2. It still took some good fortune

I'm very, very high on UCF as a program, and I think the 2014 Knights won't fall very far, if at all, despite the loss of Blake Bortles, Storm Johnson, and company. But while I have them in a tier of their own in this conference, they're only a step ahead of teams like Cincinnati, ECU, and Houston, not leaps and bounds.

While they beat Penn State, Louisville, and Baylor, they did still need late, improbable heroics to beat Memphis (two fumble recovery touchdowns in the last three minutes) and Temple (10 points in the final 66 seconds, seven of which came off of this ridiculous catch). They did need a late goal line stand to beat Houston. They did need a fourth-quarter comeback to fend off listless USF.

They saved their best performances for the best teams on the schedule, but there were still weaknesses here, and playing to your level of competition is certainly a good way to get upset. This has certainly been an O'Leary trait through the years. In 2012, UCF fought well before falling to 12-0 Ohio State, then sleepwalked through a 13-point win over 3-9 FIU. In 2011, the Knights barely lost to 12-2 Southern Miss, then slipped up to 5-7 ECU. In 2010, UCF barely lost to 9-4 N.C. State, then plodded through an uninspiring win over 2-10 Buffalo.

Saving your best for the best teams inserts quite a bit of volatility and unpredictability, and unpredictable teams don't always make for good favorites.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 12-1 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 21
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Akron 108 38-7 W 41.7 - 20.3 W
6-Sep at Florida International 125 38-0 W 29.0 - 15.8 W
14-Sep at Penn State 61 34-31 W 46.2 - 36.0 W
28-Sep South Carolina 10 25-28 L 39.3 - 26.7 W
5-Oct at Memphis 83 24-17 W 24.7 - 35.0 L 9.4
18-Oct at Louisville 12 38-35 W 61.0 - 33.0 W 10.7
26-Oct Connecticut 93 62-17 W 44.6 - 19.5 W 13.1
9-Nov Houston 46 19-14 W 36.2 - 25.8 W 13.2
16-Nov at Temple 98 39-36 W 41.2 - 37.1 W 11.5
21-Nov Rutgers 91 41-17 W 35.8 - 16.6 W 17.4
29-Nov South Florida 99 23-20 W 28.5 - 29.2 L 11.6
7-Dec at SMU 84 17-13 W 28.3 - 21.5 W 8.0
1-Jan vs. Baylor 7 52-42 W 54.5 - 23.1 W 12.2
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +16.4% 13 +5.2% 38 +2.2% 23
Points Per Game 34.6 30 21.3 17
Adj. Points Per Game 39.3 8 26.1 52

3. Big in big moments

When you avoid those upset bids, though, best-against-best can make for a pretty memorable season. UCF survived duds against Memphis and USF, got past some bad breaks against Houston and Temple, and put itself in a position to win the AAC. And with the conference title on the line, the Knights played their best ball of the season.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): UCF 36.2, Opponent 24.7 (plus-11.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 3 games): UCF 47.3, Opponent 26.1 (plus-21.2)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): UCF 33.5, Opponent 26.1 (plus-7.4)

The offense came and went in 2013, while the defense was mostly steady. In 2014, the onus will be on the defense to raise its game to account for what might be a bit more inconsistency -- well, the same inconsistency with a lower baseline -- from the offense.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 20 IsoPPP+ 108.2 26
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 49.3% 13 Succ. Rt. + 121.5 7
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 26.6 11 Def. FP+ 103.4 21
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 37 Redzone S&P+ 104.6 41
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.6 ACTUAL 21 +1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 40 9 7 17
RUSHING 75 7 9 29
PASSING 25 13 7 27
Standard Downs 21 19 30
Passing Downs 4 2 26
Q1 Rk 10 1st Down Rk 19
Q2 Rk 22 2nd Down Rk 2
Q3 Rk 7 3rd Down Rk 31
Q4 Rk 13

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Blake Bortles 259 382 3581 25 9 67.8% 21 5.2% 8.5
Justin Holman 6'4, 206 So. 3 stars (5.5) 9 14 75 1 1 64.3% 0 0.0% 5.4
Pete DiNovo 6'1, 207 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tyler Harris 6'4, 218 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

4. More than Bortles

Blake Bortles is a really good quarterback. It confused me to see him linked to the No. 1 pick in the draft -- in two-plus years of watching him play, I never thought I was looking at a top-five caliber draft pick -- but while you could occasionally pressure him into a poor decision, they were few and far between, especially in his junior season. He completed more than two-thirds of his passes while averaging nearly 14 yards per completion, and again, he raised his game at key moments: He was 21-for-32 for 250 yards against Louisville, 20-for-27 for 288 against Penn State, 20-for-31 for 301 against Baylor, and even 25-for-36 for 358 in the lone loss to South Carolina. Interceptions were problematic against S.C. and Baylor, but he was a very good college quarterback. There's no doubting that.

Still, he wasn't the sole reason for UCF's success. First of all, he had one hell of a line protecting him. UCF's offensive line did wonderful jobs in both short-yardage run blocking and passing-downs pass blocking and, as mentioned above, featured three all-conference performers. Plus, Bortles got to share the backfield with two fun backs, Storm Johnson and William Stanback. And he had one of the nation's deepest receiving corps at his disposal.

The next quarterback inherits pieces of that, as we'll discuss below. But who will be the starting quarterback? Sophomore Justin Holman ... probably. He was the first-stringer at the end of spring ball, but he didn't dominate, and O'Leary didn't officially name him the starter. He'll have to continue fending off redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo and true freshman Tyler Harris into the fall. The lanky Holman didn't get many opportunities in 2013, but he did complete nine of his 14 passes and did get to the second level of the defense for a couple of solid runs.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Storm Johnson RB 213 1139 14 5.3 6.4 35.2%
William Stanback RB 5'11, 221 So. 2 stars (5.2) 105 443 6 4.2 4.7 32.4%
Blake Bortles QB 66 420 6 6.4 5.2 54.5%
Rannell Hall WR 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 121 1 8.6 4.2 71.4%
Dontravious Wilson RB 5'10, 212 So. 2 stars (5.4) 9 10 0 1.1 1.5 11.1%
Justin Holman QB 6'4, 206 So. 3 stars (5.5) 7 40 0 5.7 10.6 28.6%
Micah Reed RB 5'10, 206 So. 3 stars (5.6) 7 13 0 1.9 3.0 28.6%
Jeff Godfrey WR 6 64 0 10.7 21.5 33.3%
Cedric Thompson RB 6'0, 226 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 5 17 0 3.4 2.0 40.0%
C.J. Jones RB 5'10, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)





5. Whither the run game?

Despite the loss of Bortles, I'm a lot more worried about the run than the pass in 2014. The line is starting over, albeit with a two-year starting tackle in Torrian Wilson and a wealth of former three-star recruits. Johnson is gone, too, which means the training wheels are off for Stanback, who had huge moments against Louisville and Houston but was pretty inefficient for much of the year.

There are quite a few candidates for breakthroughs here, guys who could easily make us feel silly for doubting the run. Sophomore running back Micah Reed came to Orlando with a pretty nice pedigree, and incoming three-star freshman C.J. Jones could provide depth. And while you cannot assume the same level of competence up front, the sophomore class features four former three-star recruits who, if they're not ready for big-time play in 2014, could be there by 2015.

There are so many sophomores involved in the ground game that one really does assume great things for 2015-16. This coming season, however, is still a question mark.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Rannell Hall WR 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 78 57 886 73.1% 20.3% 60.3% 11.4 237 10.8 151.9
J.J. Worton WR 6'2, 211 Sr. NR 68 47 721 69.1% 17.7% 60.3% 10.6 172 10.0 123.6
Jackie Williams
(UAB 2012)
WR 5'11, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 80 52 799 65.0% 17.6% 62.5% 10.0 N/A 9.9 94.1
Breshad Perriman WR 6'2, 209 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 63 39 811 61.9% 16.4% 55.7% 12.9 329 12.7 139.0
Jeff Godfrey WR 63 43 406 68.3% 16.4% 61.8% 6.4 -100 6.3 69.6
Josh Reese WR 6'0, 184 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 36 21 252 58.3% 9.4% 44.4% 7.0 -16 7.4 43.2
Storm Johnson RB 34 30 260 88.2% 8.9% 61.3% 7.6 -54 6.9 44.6
William Stanback RB 5'11, 221 So. 2 stars (5.2) 19 15 186 78.9% 4.9% 61.1% 9.8 21 10.7 31.9
Justin Tukes TE 6'5, 257 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 17 13 116 76.5% 4.4% 56.3% 6.8 -29 6.5 19.9
Kevin Miller TE 6'4, 250 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 4 2 18 50.0% 1.0% 100.0% 4.5 -10 3.3 3.1
Taylor Oldham WR 6'1, 199 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Blake Davis TE 6'3, 243 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Mario Mathis HB 6'1, 234 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tre'Quan Smith WR 6'3, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)








6. All the wideouts you need

J.J. Worton, purveyor of the best catch you saw last season (against Temple), was actually UCF's No. 2 receiver. That alone says quite a bit. Worton, No. 1 Rannell Hall, and No. 3 Breshad Perriman all averaged at least 10.6 yards per target in 2013, and former four-star recruit Josh Reese pitched in a decent 7.0.

Stanback proved threatening out of the backfield, tight end Justin Tukes caught three-quarters of the passes thrown his way, and any of four three-star youngsters could be ready to break into the rotation in 2014. Oh yeah, and transfer Jackie Williams, who led UAB in receiving in 2012, should easily replace the production and potential of departed Jeff Godfrey.

This receiving corps is loaded; it helped Bortles evidently turn into a top-10 prospect, and it should ease the transition for Holman or whoever lands the job as Bortles' replacement. The biggest question for the offense is simply whether the run game, seventh-best in the country last year according to Rushing S&P+, is capable of keeping UCF out of too many obvious passing situations.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 115.5 2.65 4.27 37.9% 76.1% 22.3% 113.8 7.4% 1.3%
Rank 11 105 4 81 20 110 53 111 3
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Justin McCray RG 32 1st All-AAC
Jordan McCray LG 28 1st All-AAC
Chris Martin RT 28 2nd All-AAC
Torrian Wilson LT 6'3, 308 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 29
Joey Grant C 6'2, 291 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 14
Tarik Cook RG 6'2, 294 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 2
Kelly Davison RT 0
Chester Brown RT 6'5, 325 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Michael Campbell LT 6'5, 280 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Kelly Parfitt LG 6'5, 312 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Colby Watson RG 6'4, 302 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Tate Hernly LG 6'2, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Lance McDowdell OL 6'4, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Chavis Dickey OL 6'4, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.18 81 IsoPPP+ 100.2 57
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.4% 40 Succ. Rt. + 96.4 69
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.2 23 Off. FP+ 99.5 68
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 54 Redzone S&P+ 88.2 92
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 28.0 ACTUAL 26.0 -2.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 29 75 69 54
RUSHING 16 106 97 73
PASSING 77 38 43 35
Standard Downs 50 65 29
Passing Downs 101 97 93
Q1 Rk 39 1st Down Rk 18
Q2 Rk 59 2nd Down Rk 94
Q3 Rk 89 3rd Down Rk 105
Q4 Rk 74

7. Opponents played to UCF's strengths

Heading into last season, UCF had to replace the top three linemen, two of the top three linebackers, and three of the top five defensive backs from a unit that ranked a decent 42nd in Def. F/+. It was reasonable to expect regression, but instead, the Knights improved to 38th.

That alone says pretty exciting things about 2014; this time around, UCF returns four of five up front, four of five at linebacker, and basically all of last year's secondary. Experience alone could make this a top-30 defense.

Opponents did UCF a favor last year, however: they passed a lot. As was the case in 2012, the Knights were much better defending the pass than the run, but a combination of UCF leads and opponent tendencies (there were certainly quite a few pass-first teams on the schedule) meant that the Knights spent a disproportionate amount of time defending what they defend the best. If the UCF offense struggles a bit more this fall, that could change.

UCF's run defense was confusing in 2013. As you see below, the Knights ranked fourth in Power Success Rate (short-yardage success) and fifth in Stuff Rate (run stops behind the line of scrimmage), but they ranked 106th in Rushing S&P+. How does this happen? First, Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate are not adjusted for opponent, and outside of South Carolina, Louisville, and Baylor, UCF didn't play against many good offenses. Second, UCF took quite a few risks up front, and when the Knights weren't making a stop behind the line, they were allowing a solid chunk of yardage.

Again, experience will help. Tackle E.J. Dunston and linebacker Sean Maag are gone; they combined for 7.5 non-sack tackles for loss. But everybody else from the front seven is back, including tackles Demetris Anderson and Jaryl Mamea. At the very least, the run defense shouldn't be any worse, and the odds of improvement are good.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 91.5 2.88 3.33 41.2% 52.8% 25.9% 86.3 3.6% 7.6%
Rank 98 50 68 85 4 5 90 88 49
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
E.J. Dunston DT 12 32.5 4.8% 6.5 3.0 0 3 0 0
Thomas Niles DE 6'2, 270 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 22.0 3.2% 8.0 4.0 0 0 0 0
Demetris Anderson DT 6'2, 304 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 19.0 2.8% 7.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Miles Pace DE 6'2, 247 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 8 12.0 1.8% 4.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Jaryl Mamea DT 6'1, 273 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 11.0 1.6% 4.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Blake Keller DE 4 7.5 1.1% 4.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Seyvon Lowry DE 6'3, 236 So. 3 stars (5.6) 6 6.5 1.0% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Deion Green DE 6'1, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 6 5.5 0.8% 2.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Deondre Barnett DE 6'2, 221 So. 2 stars (5.4) 6 4.5 0.7% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Rob Sauvao DT 6'2, 276 Sr. NR
Luke Adams DE 6'4, 260 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Tony Guerad DT 6'3, 296 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Stanley Sylverain DE 6'1, 232 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Jamiyus Pittman DT 6'2, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Terrance Plummer MLB 6'1, 241 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 86.0 12.6% 8.5 2.5 2 6 2 0
Sean Maag OLB 13 63.0 9.2% 4.0 0.0 2 2 0 0
Troy Gray OLB 6'1, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 48.0 7.0% 4.0 1.0 2 4 1 0
Justin McDonald OLB 6'2, 211 So. 2 stars (5.4) 9 24.5 3.6% 4.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Michael Easton OLB 5'11, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 23.0 3.4% 2.0 0.0 0 0 2 0
Willie Mitchell LB 6'0, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 2 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Chequan Burkett LB 6'1, 212 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 4 5.5 0.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Domenic Spencer LB 5'10, 231 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 5 2.5 0.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Russell LB 5'11, 239 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Mark Rucker LB 5'9, 216 So. 2 stars (5.2)
Errol Clarke LB 6'3, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Clayton Geathers SS 6'2, 207 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 82.0 12.0% 4.5 0 2 10 2 0
Jordan Ozerities CB 5'10, 191 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 50.5 7.4% 4.5 1 1 6 0 0
Brandon Alexander FS 6'2, 191 Sr. NR 13 49.5 7.2% 3 1 3 7 1 0
Jacoby Glenn CB 6'0, 176 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 45.5 6.7% 3 2 2 15 2 0
Drico Johnson FS 6'2, 206 So. 3 stars (5.6) 13 10.5 1.5% 0 0 0 1 1 1
Sean Beckton CB 5'10, 184 Sr. NR 11 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
D.J. Killings CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 8 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Shaquill Griffin CB 6'1, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 8 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Jared Henry SS 5'11, 201 So. 3 stars (5.5) 3 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brendin Straubel DB 5'9, 189 Jr. NR 8 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Gibson DB 6'0, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Chris Williams DB 6'2, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Mike Rogers DB 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)






8. But seriously, don't pass on this team

Even if the run defense improves, you should probably still take your chances on the ground. The secondary was dominant last year despite a sketchy pass rush, and everybody's back this fall, from safeties Clayton Geathers and Brandon Alexander (combined: 7.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 17 break-ups), to corners Jordan Ozerities and Jacoby Glenn (combined: 7.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, 21 break-ups). Plus, three very highly touted freshmen join the mix as well, including four-star signee Kyle Gibson.

The linebacking corps was active in pass defense, too. It's hard to say with confidence that the pass rush will improve much, but this will be a top-40 pass defense despite it. Any sort of pressure, and this becomes an elite unit.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Caleb Houston 6'2, 206 So. 41 42.2 5 7 12 46.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Sean Galvin 6'3, 221 Sr. 74 62.8 23 1 31.1%
Shawn Moffitt 5'11, 178 Sr. 11 56.9 1 0 9.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Shawn Moffitt 5'11, 178 Sr. 49-49 20-21 95.2% 1-2 50.0%
Rodrigo Quirarte 6'1, 195 Sr. 4-4 0-0 N/A 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Rannell Hall KR 6'1, 196 Sr. 29 23.8 0
William Stanback KR 5'11, 205 So. 11 19.8 0
J.J. Worton PR 6'2, 211 Sr. 13 12.1 0
Jeff Godfrey PR 3 8.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 23
Field Goal Efficiency 17
Punt Return Efficiency 81
Kick Return Efficiency 44
Punt Efficiency 87
Kickoff Efficiency 2
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 90

9. Acing the kicking game

UCF's special teams unit wasn't without flaws in 2013; punter Caleb Houston outkicked his coverage from time to time, and punt returns weren't incredibly consistent.

But between Shawn Moffitt's place-kicking and the coverage associated with Sean Galvin's kickoffs, UCF was just fine in this regard. Moffitt was automatic inside 40 yards (and limited outside of 40), and while Galvin only kicked touchbacks 31 percent of the time, UCF was second in the country in Kickoff Efficiency. Opponents averaged just 20.3 yards per return, and Galvin seemed to master the art of a high kickoff fielded just outside the goal line.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug vs. Penn State 38
13-Sep at Missouri 31
20-Sep Bethune-Cookman NR
2-Oct at Houston 41
9-Oct BYU 32
18-Oct Tulane 90
25-Oct Temple 87
1-Nov at Connecticut 86
14-Nov Tulsa 64
22-Nov SMU 74
28-Nov at South Florida 77
4-Dec at East Carolina 72
Five-Year F/+ Rk 8.3% (36)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 73
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 8.3
TO Luck/Game -1.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (6, 9)

10. Business up front, party in the back

When you've got a new quarterback, the optimal situation might be to start the season with a couple of cupcake games to work out the kinks, then jump into the meat of the schedule. UCF does not have that luxury. Someone -- probably Justin Holman, maybe not -- will be making his first start against Penn State in Dublin. Two weeks later, he'll be making his second start on the road against defending SEC East champion Missouri. After an FCS tune-up, his fourth start could come on the road against what might be UCF's toughest AAC competition, Houston. Survive the first half of the season, however, and the wins should flow later on, at least until Thanksgiving.

UCF won't be falling to 5-7 even if quarterback play is sketchy, but the schedule does the Knights no favors, both because of the tough start and because of road games against both Houston and ECU.

Some bad breaks in close games and a road loss or two could doom them in the AAC title race, but make no mistake: O'Leary has built this program for the long haul. The Knights are in better shape from top to bottom, and have more proven pieces, than anybody in the league. They recruit pretty well, they develop, they play good defense even with minimal experience, and they simply have more athleticism than anybody else.

Will the Knights take a step backwards in 2014? Sure, maybe. But even if they do, they'll probably be the odds-on favorite to win the league in 2015, 2016, and beyond.

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