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The big UCF football guide: Another surge coming, but will it be in 2015?

The 128-team countdown inspects the Knights, who might be a step shy of the conference throne again. For now.

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Still the favorite?

Some bad breaks and a road loss 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 than anybody in the league. They recruit well, they develop, they play good defense even with minimal experience, and they simply have more athleticism.

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.

-- The big 2014 UCF football preview

Sometimes it's not the presence of a drop-off, but the magnitude, that matters.

UCF was all but guaranteed to regress in 2014. The Knights had to replace the top quarterback in the NFL Draft (Jacksonville Jaguar Blake Bortles), an 1,100-yard rusher (Storm Johnson), and three all-conference linemen from what was probably their best-ever offense, one that averaged 6.6 yards per play and 34.6 points per game and ranked 23rd in Off. S&P+. The depth was still intriguing, but you can't lose that many difference-makers without a drop.

The defense had a chance to improve last year, and did so. But the magnitude of the offensive drop was going to be telltale.

Would the Knights' Off. S&P+ rating fall out of the top 50? Top 75?

It fell to 99th. New quarterback Justin Holman showed hints of an incredible arm but struggled to harness it, and the run game burned to the ground. The output was mystifying -- 24 points against Penn State but 17 against Houston, 31 against BYU but 16 against USF -- and resulted in a tumble from 22nd in the overall F/+ ratings to 60th. A winning record in one-possession games (4-3) meant the damage was minimal, but the drop was larger than I expected.

So was it enough to change the program's trajectory? The point of last year's preview was, "Yeah, they'll fall this year, but they're still the sturdiest in the conference." That assertion was made shaky last year, and the defense now has a lot to prove. It must replace its entire secondary and two-thirds of an active linebacking corps. Still, recruiting and coaching are still strong, and the new contributors look pretty impressive on paper.

Memphis' 2014 surge (and retention of head coach Justin Fuente) and Tommy Tuberville's work at Cincinnati, not to mention the addition of a sturdy Navy, have made me less confident in UCF's superiority. This season will go a long way toward solidifying that confidence or tearing it all the way down.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 60
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug vs. Penn State 45 24-26 L 36% -8.3 49%
13-Sep at Missouri 20 10-38 L 4% -41.1 0%
20-Sep Bethune-Cookman NR 41-7 W 83% 22.7 100%
2-Oct at Houston 73 17-12 W 64% 8.6 86%
9-Oct BYU 46 31-24 W 55% 3.0 66%
18-Oct Tulane 93 20-13 W 43% -4.3 85%
25-Oct Temple 67 34-14 W 91% 30.9 100%
1-Nov at Connecticut 119 29-37 L 8% -33.5 15%
14-Nov Tulsa 117 31-7 W 63% 7.5 100%
22-Nov SMU 127 53-7 W 83% 22.2 100%
28-Nov at South Florida 123 16-0 W 56% 3.6 96%
4-Dec at East Carolina 61 32-30 W 40% -6.2 30%
26-Dec vs. NC State 55 27-34 L 19% -20.3 9%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 22.6 99 23.4 34
Points Per Game 28.1 72 19.2 9

2. Kings of the response

If there's one thing UCF is incredible at under George O'Leary, it's responding to setbacks. The Knights do step backward, but their next step is always sure. They improved from 0-11 to 8-5 in 2005. After falling back to 4-8 in 2006, they surged to 10-4, went 12-13 in 2008-09, then 11-3 in 2010. After one more slip (5-7 in 2011), they put together their most sustained surge yet, going 31-9 since 2012.

2014 played out in a similar fashion. UCF faded in the second half of an eventual 28-point loss at Missouri, then responded with three decent performances. They looked shaky in a narrow win over Tulane, then put up 466 yards and 34 points on a strong Temple. They inexplicably lost to UConn, then beat Tulsa, SMU, and USF by a combined 100-14.

The finale against ECU took on the same look: UCF gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns to go from up 26-9 to down 30-26, then made a huge stop in the closing seconds and completed a 51-yard Hail Mary for the win.

It's telling that we're talking about a 9-4 season like something to be rebounded from. On paper, we see the offense is mostly experienced and the defense has handled turnover well in the past. If the Knights respond to setbacks as they have through the 2000s, they could be capable of awesome things.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.85 68 IsoPPP+ 102.7 62
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.3% 81 Succ. Rt. + 98.0 74
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.0 106 Def. FP+ 96.0 108
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 86 Redzone S&P+ 95.0 81
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.2 ACTUAL 29 +3.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 103 66 82 62
RUSHING 106 87 76 99
PASSING 59 48 86 34
Standard Downs 83 98 73
Passing Downs 46 48 47
Q1 Rk 92 1st Down Rk 55
Q2 Rk 49 2nd Down Rk 52
Q3 Rk 77 3rd Down Rk 101
Q4 Rk 87

3. A change, sort of

Charlie Taaffe's career was unique. He served as the offensive coordinator for Army, Maryland, Pitt, UCF, and ... the Montreal Alouettes. His three head coaching jobs were for the Alouettes, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and ... The Citadel.

He pivoted from two successful seasons as Montreal head coach (24-12 with a Grey Cup appearance) to the Maryland offensive coordinator position, and after six years back in FBS, he went to Hamilton and bombed (5-23). The last six seasons of his career took place in Orlando, pulling the strings for an offense that was often solid (three times in the Off. S&P+ top 50) and sometimes less so.

Taaffe's retirement opened the door for an O'Leary lifer. Brent Key was a four-year starting lineman for O'Leary's Georgia Tech, then took on a graduate assistant role for the Yellow Jackets in 2001. He resumed the same role at UCF. He was a tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator, offensive line coach, and running backs coach, and now he's calling plays.

One figures the change from Taaffe to Key will not be significant. The pace will probably pick up a bit, but the pro-style principles will still be in place.

A lot of the play-calling, though, might depend on whether the run or pass is a liability. The former was last fall.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Justin Holman 6'4, 213 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7969 223 392 2952 23 14 56.9% 26 6.2% 6.6
Nick Patti 5'11, 201 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8397 7 14 89 0 1 50.0% 0 0.0% 6.4
Pete DiNovo 6'2, 205 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8209 3 8 18 0 0 37.5% 1 11.1% 1.3
Tyler Harris 6'4, 223 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8711
Bo Schneider 6'4, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
William Stanback RB 6'1, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 189 697 10 3.7 4.5 28.0% 2 2
Dontravious Wilson RB 5'10, 212 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8201 95 347 3 3.7 3.5 28.4% 1 0
Justin Holman QB 6'4, 213 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7969 86 362 3 4.2 2.4 51.2% 8 4
Micah Reed RB 6'0, 214 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8553 59 223 0 3.8 2.2 35.6% 1 1
Rannell Hall WR
25 129 1 5.2 5.3 44.0% 1 1
Cedric Thompson HB 6'0, 224 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7898 17 36 1 2.1 1.6 23.5% 0 0
Nick Patti QB 5'11, 201 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8397 9 49 1 5.4 4.7 44.4% 0 0
Josh Reese WR
4 16 0 4.0 1.3 50.0% 0 0
C.J. Jones RB 5'10, 195 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8328
Taj McGowan RB 6'1, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8305






4. What the hell happened to the run?

Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson were the marquee names on UCF's 2013 Fiesta Bowl squad, but the most important players might have been Justin McCray, Jordan McCray, and Chris Martin. Those linemen combined for 88 career starts, and they played their final games at the Fiesta Bowl.

The 2014 line featured a three-year starter in left tackle Torrian Wilson and ... a pu pu platter of interchangeable pieces. Four different players started at left guard (including three in the first three weeks), two started at center, three started at right guard, and two started at right tackle. Incredibly, UCF started a different combination up front in each of the first nine games of the season. The Knights began with three players with starting experience and finished with 10.

So it wasn't surprising when a line that ranked 11th in Adj. Line Yards in 2013 fell to 111th. The line held up well to blitzes but couldn't generate a push in short-yardage situations and couldn't keep defenders out of the backfield on run plays. A full quarter of UCF's rushes were stopped at or behind the line.

Young running backs didn't help. William Stanback, Dontravious Wilson, and Micah Reed were sophomores, and all three failed to average 4 yards per carry. Reed hinted at efficiency, and Stanback showed potential explosiveness for his size, but a year after ranking seventh in Rushing S&P+, UCF fell to 87th.

Based on nothing more than experience, that should change. The sophomores have become juniors (and added a couple of three-star youngsters in C.J. Jones and Taj McGowan), and the line returns eight of the 10 players who started a game. Experience means nothing without skill, but it's better than nothing.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Breshad Perriman WR
94 50 1044 53.2% 24.5% 48.9% 11.1 416 11.5 135.5
Rannell Hall WR
79 49 500 62.0% 20.6% 55.7% 6.3 -96 6.4 64.9
Josh Reese WR
66 39 552 59.1% 17.2% 39.4% 8.4 73 8.4 71.6
J.J. Worton WR
52 36 514 69.2% 13.5% 59.6% 9.9 85 10.0 66.7
Jordan Akins WR 6'3, 237 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8505 20 12 135 60.0% 5.2% 80.0% 6.8 -12 7.9 17.5
Dontravious Wilson RB 5'10, 212 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8201 17 13 56 76.5% 4.4% 52.9% 3.3 -96 3.3 7.3
William Stanback RB 6'1, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 17 11 55 64.7% 4.4% 47.1% 3.2 -78 3.0 7.1
Jackie Williams WR
10 7 56 70.0% 2.6% 50.0% 5.6 -27 6.1 7.3
Justin Tukes TE
8 5 45 62.5% 2.1% 100.0% 5.6 -16 NR 5.8
Micah Reed RB 6'0, 214 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8553 7 5 46 71.4% 1.8% 14.3% 6.6 -13 6.3 6.0
Taylor Oldham WR 6'1, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7500 7 3 35 42.9% 1.8% 57.1% 5.0 -5 5.0 4.5
Kevin Miller TE 6'4, 255 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7994 3 2 13 66.7% 0.8% 100.0% 4.3 -11 NR 1.7
Mario Mathis HB 6'1, 232 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469
Tre'Quan Smith WR 6'1, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8179
Tristan Payton WR 6'1, 185 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9047
Chris Davis Jr. WR 6'1, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8142
Cam Stewart WR 6'3, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8460
Aaron Cochran HB 6'3, 262 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8206
D'erren Wilson WR 6'3, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993

5. What the hell is going to happen to the pass?

Holman is tantalizing. He won the thankless job of succeeding Bortles, and while he was far from amazing, his good throws were beyond good. When his footwork was right and he wasn't hurried, he threw what might have been the prettiest ball in college football.

But as is the case for many young starters, he was still learning. His feet betrayed him often, and his reads were sometimes slow. He took more sacks on standard downs than passing downs, he threw 14 interceptions, and his completion rate was 57 percent -- not terrible considering he was averaging 13.2 yards per completion, but not great either.

Holman's great games were incredible. Against Penn State and Temple, two of the best defenses on the schedule, he completed a combined 34 of 53 passes (64 percent) for 540 yards, three scores, and no picks. Against Houston, Tulane, UConn, and NC State, he completed 60 of 130 (46 percent) for 789 yards, eight scores, and seven picks.

A stable line and running game could keep Holman comfortable, but he might have trouble recognizing his receivers. Those responsible for 81 percent of last year's targets are gone. UCF didn't have a go-to guy (Breshad Perriman's 24.5 percent target rate was awfully low for a No. 1 target), but that doesn't matter when you lose five of your top six wideouts.

The retooled corps has all sorts of potential. Big sophomore Jordan Akins was a mid-three-star signee, redshirt freshman Tre'Quan Smith's name came up quite a bit this spring, and four-star freshman Tristan Payton was the jewel of the 2015 class.

But they have a combined 12 career catches and one year of experience. While this passing game could be awesome in 2016, one has to assume growing pains in 2015.

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 86 2.45 2.51 34.3% 64.6% 25.0% 103.0 5.9% 4.8%
Rank 111 118 114 111 89 121 63 88 23
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Torrian Wilson LT 42 2014 2nd All-AAC
Joey Grant RG 6'3, 286 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685 23
Chavis Dickey RT 6'4, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8101 12
Tarik Cook C 6'2, 291 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8410 10
Tarik Milner LG
7
Jason Rae C 5'11, 283 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7594 7
Chester Brown RG 6'5, 317 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8488 3
Colby Watson RG 6'5, 318 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8103 3
Michael Campbell LT 6'6, 285 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7867 2
Aaron Evans RT 6'5, 290 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 1
Tate Hernly LG 6'3, 291 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8016 0
Wyatt Miller OL 6'4, 280 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8343
Luke Palmer OL 6'3, 280 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8035
Luke Hiers OL 6'3, 285 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600
Tyler Hudanick OL 6'5, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.72 5 IsoPPP+ 109.9 42
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.4% 27 Succ. Rt. + 94.8 90
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 34.4 7 Off. FP+ 104.9 24
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.6 13 Redzone S&P+ 92.9 92
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.3 ACTUAL 28.0 +0.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 5 57 81 42
RUSHING 6 49 87 16
PASSING 21 68 65 67
Standard Downs 59 78 51
Passing Downs 51 76 36
Q1 Rk 61 1st Down Rk 41
Q2 Rk 52 2nd Down Rk 72
Q3 Rk 69 3rd Down Rk 17
Q4 Rk 26

6. Opponents didn't have to run

O'Leary has always leaned heavily on his starters. In 2013, only three linemen, five linebackers, and four defensive backs recorded 13 tackles. In 2014, in part because of injury, those numbers increased to five, four, and six. I used to think this said bad things about UCF's depth, but through the years it has proved to be a preference.

Each year he introduces players with minimal history, and each year he fields a top-50 defense. UCF has ranked between 31st and 48th in Def. S&P+ each year since 2007 (when the Knights ranked 55th).

When the track record is that consistent, it's easy to look past staff changes. But it does bear mentioning that O'Leary is on his fourth defensive coordinator in three years. Jim Fleming took the Rhode Island head job following the Fiesta Bowl, Paul Ferraro succeeded him but left a couple of months later (strange story, that), and Tyson Summers led the D for one year before leaving for a raise at Colorado State.

Now it's Chuck Bresnahan's turn; Bresnahan was USF's coordinator for the last two years, producing a strong unit in 2013 (34th in Def. S&P+) then watching it fall apart (96th). Bresnahan takes over a unit that was rather confusing.

The Knights' run efficiency numbers were abysmal (87th in Rushing Success Rate+), but they prevented big run plays as well as just about anybody. That suggests a soft front that was prone to giving up 5-yard gains with regularity. Only, UCF ranked first in Stuff Rate (run stops at or behind the line) and third in Power Success Rate. That doesn't add up.

Opponents figured one thing out: passing was a surer bet than running. Opponents ran the ball 7 percent more than the national average on standard downs and 5 percent more on passing downs, and while this was not a winning strategy for most AAC offenses, the power-conference teams on the schedule sliced through UCF's secondary like the hot knife through butter. Penn State, Missouri, and NC State combined to produce a 157.1 passer rating, while everybody else managed 91.8.

UCF didn't play in a power conference, so that only hurt so much. Regardless, the pass defense was the weak link, and most teams tried to exploit it, even if only a few could. With a drastic overhaul in the secondary, it's hard to imagine that changing, even with a new D.C.

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 113.5 2.34 2.66 37.0% 49.1% 29.4% 123.9 7.2% 9.4%
Rank 22 7 22 41 3 1 28 19 28
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Thomas Niles DE 6'2, 270 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8314 13 38.5 5.6% 12.0 7.5 0 1 2 0
Jaryl Mamea DT
13 26.5 3.9% 10.0 7.0 0 1 0 0
Miles Pace DE 6'1, 256 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8300 11 26.0 3.8% 9.5 6.0 0 1 0 0
Demetris Anderson DT 6'2, 299 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7800 13 24.5 3.6% 8.5 3.5 0 1 0 0
Jamiyus Pittman DT 6'0, 300 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8575 13 14.0 2.0% 4.5 2.0 0 1 1 0
Luke Adams DE 6'4, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8006 12 11.5 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Seyvon Lowry (2013) DE 6'2, 244 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8399 6 6.5 1.0% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Deion Green DE



5 3.5 0.5% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Rob Sauvao DT
7 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Lance McDowdell DT 6'4, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8685 9 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Stanley Sylverain DE 6'1, 237 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7400
Tony Guerad DT 6'3, 290 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7954
Joey Connors DT 6'1, 270 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220
Monte Taylor DE 6'4, 245 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8006
Titus Davis DE 6'3, 230 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8479
Brendon Hayes DE 6'4, 255 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8052







7. Hard to worry about the defensive front

UCF is dealing with turnover in two of its three defensive units, but the line should be as stout as ever.

The Knights must replace the rare tackle-as-pass-rush-specialist in Jaryl Mamea, but the return of seniors Thomas Niles and Miles Pace is huge for the pass rush, and tackles Demetris Anderson and Jamiyus Pittman should assure the defensive front remains disruptive and solid in short-yardage. An injury to one of those two could force Bresnahan to dig deep into a well of unproven tackles, but the the Knights are quite deep at end.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Terrance Plummer MLB
13 77.0 11.2% 13.0 4.0 1 6 2 0
Troy Gray OLB
13 54.5 8.0% 8.5 1.0 0 7 1 0
Chequan Burkett OLB 6'2, 218 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8167 12 31.5 4.6% 5.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Errol Clarke OLB 6'1, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8359 12 21.5 3.1% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Easton OLB
13 9.5 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Franks OLB 6'3, 225 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752 13 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mark Rucker LB 5'9, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 13 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Willie Mitchell LB
11 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Domenic Spencer MLB 5'10, 229 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR 11 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Russell LB 5'11, 239 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8006 11 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin McDonald LB 6'2, 211 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8248
Quintin Hampton LB 6'0, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8367
Neal Nelson LB 6'2, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8331
Pat Jasinski LB 6'2, 218 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116
Marcus Foster LB 6'2, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Clayton Geathers SS
13 77.5 11.3% 6.5 1 1 9 1 0
Brandon Alexander FS
13 60.5 8.8% 2 0 3 7 2 1
Jordan Ozerities CB
13 59.0 8.6% 3 1.5 3 11 0 0
Jacoby Glenn CB
13 41.5 6.1% 1 0 7 11 1 0
Shaquill Griffin CB 6'1, 192 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8259 13 15.0 2.2% 0 0 1 0 0 0
D.J. Killings CB 6'1, 184 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8078 8 13.0 1.9% 1 0 2 2 0 0
Drico Johnson FS 6'1, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453 13 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jared Henry SS 6'0, 208 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8500 10 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Beckton DB
13 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Gibson DB 5'11, 180 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8957
Chris Williams CB 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8879
Tre Neal DB 6'1, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8386
Rashard Causey DB 6'0, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8681
Brandon Scott DB 6'0, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504








8. Not hard to worry about pass defense

Linebacker recruiting has not been much of an issue for UCF. Losing longtime starters Terrance Plummer and Troy Gray (combined: 21.5 tackles for loss, 14 passes defensed, five sacks) is nothing to ignore, but the odds are good that starters will emerge from a pool that includes seniors Errol Clarke and Dom Spencer, sophomore Chequan Burkett, junior Justin McDonald, and plenty of former three-star recruits.

The secondary has similar promise but far less experience. A starting secondary that accounted for 14 interceptions, 38 break-ups, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles is gone.

The unit is not devoid of experience. Four juniors recorded between 7.5 and 15 tackles, and all four were former three-star recruits. D.J. Killings made an impact in minimal opportunities, and Shaquill Griffin looks like a keeper. But it will be interesting to see how quickly two of O'Leary's most high-profile signees -- redshirt freshmen Kyle Gibson and Chris Williams -- can live up. Williams had a strong spring, and Gibson is one of two former four-stars on the roster.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Caleb Houston 6'1, 200 Jr. 54 39.0 4 17 17 63.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Sean Galvin 56 59.8 17 1 30.4%
Rodrigo Quirarte 16 59.8 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Shawn Moffitt 30-30 12-14 85.7% 5-9 55.6%
Rodrigo Quirarte 10-10 4-6 66.7% 0-0
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jordan Akins KR 6'3, 237 So. 15 24.2 0
Rannell Hall KR 12 27.5 0
J.J. Worton PR 17 10.2 0
Jackie Williams PR 6 9.2 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 74
Field Goal Efficiency 82
Punt Return Efficiency 110
Kick Return Efficiency 5
Punt Efficiency 87
Kickoff Efficiency 65
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 119

9. A reset in special teams, too

Special teams was a mixed bag, with efficiency rankings spanning from fifth to 110th. Jordan Akins, one of the reasons for the best ranking (kick returns), is back, as is a decent punter in Caleb Houston.

But UCF is starting over at kickoffs, place-kicking, and punt returns. You never know about new people in special teams, but there are enough players in new roles that improving on last year's No. 74 ranking isn't probable.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
3-Sep Florida International 96
12-Sep at Stanford 18
19-Sep Furman NR
26-Sep at South Carolina 38
3-Oct at Tulane 93
10-Oct Connecticut 119
17-Oct at Temple 67
24-Oct Houston 73
31-Oct at Cincinnati 47
7-Nov at Tulsa 117
19-Nov East Carolina 61
27-Nov South Florida 123
Five-Year F/+ Rk 14.3% (38)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 52 / 59
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 2.1
2014 TO Luck/Game -1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 9 (5, 4)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 8.4 (0.6)

10. This is a test

UCF has won 31 games in three years, and the Knights' last two recruiting classes have ranked second and third in the AAC. The defense hasn't ranked worse than 55th in Def. S&P+ since 2006, and thanks to a more stable run game and experienced quarterback, the offense should improve a little despite turnover at receiver.

Still, teams returning only nine starters have averaged a drop of about 12.6 percentage points over the last decade. By last year's standards, that would take UCF from 60th to about 86th.

I don't foresee such a drop, but that's a reminder that this year is another stiff test. UCF's athleticism should be as high as ever, but just as last year's inexperience is rectified, this year sees all sorts of new faces. Any improvement over last year's ratings would have to be seen as a victory.

With a schedule that features only three teams that ranked better than 61st last year (all on the road), the Knights should expect to win another seven to nine games. With trips to both Cincinnati and Temple, it will probably be another year before they make a serious run at another conference title.