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Expect UCF's terrible 2015 to become a distant memory under Scott Frost. Eventually.

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UCF fell from a top-10 finish to a winless season in just two years, but the Knights have a world of athletic potential and a new head coach who's speed-and-tempo identity could mesh well. Expect a four- or five-win rebound.

USA Today

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. Things fall apart

One day, you're winning the Fiesta Bowl. Barely 18 months later, you're careening off of the proverbial cliff.

George O'Leary's successful run at UCF was nothing if not symmetrical. He began 0-11, he finished 0-12 (well, 0-8 before an interim took over), and in the 10 years in between, he went 81-49. He took the still-young program to seven bowls, won three, advanced the Knights from Conference USA to the Big East/AAC, and engineered a top-10 finish in 2013.

O'Leary proved the potential a large school in Orlando can have if it gets its act together. His work made the 44,000-seat Bright House Networks Stadium seem realistic and necessary. He gave us Kevin Smith, Blake Bortles, and Brandon Marshall.

He wasn't particularly likable, but he proved that you don't really need to be to succeed. His success at an upstart gave him a legacy that didn't involve fudging his résumé.

The end came the way it does for a lot of aging coaches. It's hard to maintain the intensity required for a head coaching job, and eventually your attention wanes. For O'Leary, not only did he turn 69 right before the 2015 season began, he was also attempting to take on the role of interim athletic director. He had visions of stepping into the A.D. role full-time.

But while coaches used to wear coach and A.D. hats at the same time, it's a lot harder in the 2010s. Too much is required of coaches (who get paid handsomely for taking on too much). Age and the athletic director position distracted O'Leary, and by the time he stepped down as A.D. in October, it was too late. His team was ill-prepared and overwhelmed.

O'Leary recruited as well as anyone in the AAC, but you couldn't tell it. The Knights' collapse was comprehensive. They were good in special teams, they prevented sacks relatively well, they made some run stops in the backfield, and in basically every single other category among the tens of stats below, they ranked well into the triple digits.

From 23rd in Off. S&P+ in 2013, they fell to 126th in 2015. From 34th in Def. S&P+ in 2014, they fell to 112th. And from 12-1 in 2013, they fell to 0-12.

The good news: If energy and focus were problems, they won't be for his replacement. Scott Frost is an intense individual who won a share of a national title at Nebraska, bounced around the pros for six years, served as defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa in 2008, then, as would be customary for a quarterback who played safety in the pros, served as offensive coordinator for Oregon from 2013-15.

Frost was inundated into the Oregon way for the last seven seasons, and in terms of raw potential, he walks into a gold mine. There wasn't a mass exodus of talent, and UCF returns three-star talent at every position. If Frost's message of urgency clicks, he could find the depth of athleticism caters to what he wants.

Still, last year was a demoralizing experience. Frost might inherit a lot of impressive raw materials, but how long will it take to wash all of the dirt off?

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 0-12 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 128 | Final S&P+ Rk: 125
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep Florida International 112 14-15 L 50% 60% -12.0 -14.0
12-Sep at Stanford 6 7-31 L 8% 0% -6.0 -5.0
19-Sep Furman N/A 15-16 L 22% 27% -24.0
26-Sep at South Carolina 88 14-31 L 19% 7% +1.7 -2.0
3-Oct at Tulane 119 31-45 L 6% 1% -12.4 -14.0
10-Oct Connecticut 80 13-40 L 9% 1% -19.0 -30.0
17-Oct at Temple 45 16-30 L 11% 0% +20.0 +8.0
24-Oct Houston 26 10-59 L 8% 0% -24.5 -27.5
31-Oct at Cincinnati 72 7-52 L 2% 0% -23.2 -17.5
7-Nov at Tulsa 95 30-45 L 22% 11% +7.8 +1.5
19-Nov East Carolina 73 7-44 L 7% 0% -20.6 -22.5
26-Nov South Florida 44 3-44 L 7% 0% -14.9 -41.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 14.0 126 36.4 112
Points Per Game 13.9 126 37.7 118

2. Never even a sliver of hope

Things look different in the present and past tenses. When UCF opened the season with a Thursday night 15-14 loss to FIU, it felt like an upset, like a statement win for Golden Panthers more than a telltale loss for the Knights.

Turns out, it was UCF's best performance of the season. The Knights were only outgained by six yards, and with fumbles luck (they recovered all four of the game's fumbles), they probably should have won. You really couldn't say that about any other game on the docket, including the 16-15 loss to Furman.

UCF was bad early and worse late, showing a pulse only a few times -- the Knights were up 14-8 on South Carolina at halftime, they were up 16-14 on Temple heading into the fourth quarter, and they were down 24-20 at Tulsa heading into the fourth quarter. In each instance, they faded. But at least they did so while flashing some potential.

This was a truly dreadful season. O'Leary had no gas left in the tank, and it rubbed off on his team.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.01 127 IsoPPP+ 65.7 127
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 34.2% 122 Succ. Rt. + 77.7 123
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.8 108 Def. FP+ 31.3 98
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.4 122 Redzone S&P+ 83.7 119
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.4 ACTUAL 33 +6.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 128 127 123 127
RUSHING 127 128 125 128
PASSING 102 122 117 123
Standard Downs 127 124 128
Passing Downs 121 116 123
Q1 Rk 118 1st Down Rk 128
Q2 Rk 128 2nd Down Rk 127
Q3 Rk 125 3rd Down Rk 126
Q4 Rk 118

3. Identity won't be an issue

Frost's tenure has started as well as possible considering he hasn't actually coached a game yet. Per the 247Sports Composite, he signed the No. 3 class in the conference -- a neat trick considering the 0-12 record; then his Knights drew a team-record 23,147 fans for the spring game. And for good measure, his offense looked pretty good, albeit against his defense.

Frost will face plenty of challenges this fall, but identity won't be one of them. He wants his team to be very, very fast. Oregon: Disney edition.

Speed and tempo have been the defining characteristics of Oregon football since Chip Kelly showed up as offensive coordinator in 2007. The Ducks built their entire program around the premise of tempo and urgency: Hit the defense with a solid gain, then rush to the line to do it again.

The run-pass rates shifted through the years depending on the quarterback, but speed defined their rise into elite status, and he should find quite a bit of it at UCF. The question, of course, is how much workable talent there is to go with the athleticism.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Justin Holman 6'4, 213 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7969 127 250 1379 7 14 50.8% 10 3.8% 5.1
Bo Schneider 54 105 534 2 7 51.4% 10 8.7% 4.0
Tyler Harris 6'4, 228 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8711 26 61 308 4 2 42.6% 3 4.7% 4.1
Nick Patti 5'11, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8397 4 8 25 0 0 50.0% 0 0.0% 3.1
Pete DiNovo 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8209








Garrett Kruczek 6'2, 185 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8115








McKenzie Milton 5'11, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8362








4. First impressions lie

Justin Holman threw a few passes here and there during UCF's Fiesta Bowl run in 2013, but his first significant action came in 2014, when he completed nine of 14 passes for 204 yards against Penn State, then completed 22 of 36 against Missouri. I was at the Missouri-UCF game, and while he threw two picks and was hurt by some drops, one thing was undeniable: His arm is gorgeous. His delivery is pretty smooth, and combined with solid athleticism (he's not a home run threat with his legs, but he can steal five or six yards from a distracted defense), it seemed his potential was off the charts.

The week after Missouri, Holman completed six of 11 passes for 145 yards and two scores. His career passer rating at that point was 146.2. Since then, it's 114.2. He's now thrown 29 interceptions in his career, and after completing 23 of 34 passes against FIU to start 2015, he completed just 48 percent thereafter. Granted, having a receiving corps full of freshmen didn't help.

First impressions only matter until the second one. Holman clearly still has potential, but he's got only one more year of eligibility to figure things out. An efficient Holman could have the athleticism to do what Frost and new offensive coordinator Troy Walters (who was most recently Colorado's receivers coach and recruiting coordinator) want him to. Plus, his skill position cast will be composed of mostly sophomores instead of freshmen.

If Holman's error-prone ways cannot be remedied, however, he will likely end his career as a backup. UCF also has QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Nick Patti and a host of former three-star recruits -- sophomores Tyler Harris and Garrett Kruczek, junior Pete DiNovo, freshman McKenzie Milton -- ready to take over if he struggles.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
C.J. Jones RB 5'10, 216 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8328 93 339 1 3.6 5.1 24.7% 2 2
Taj McGowan RB 6'1, 198 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8305 85 262 1 3.1 2.2 28.2% 0 0
Dontravious Wilson RB 5'10, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8201 44 147 0 3.3 3.4 27.3% 0 0
Justin Holman QB 6'4, 213 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7969 36 185 0 5.1 2.0 58.3% 4 0
Nick Patti QB/WR 5'11, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8397 30 106 2 3.5 2.4 30.0% 0 0
Michael Willett RB 5'9, 197 Jr. NR NR 15 53 0 3.5 1.4 46.7% 0 0
William Stanback RB 12 11 0 0.9 2.7 8.3% 1 1
Bo Schneider QB 6 13 0 2.2 0.9 33.3% 1 1
Tristan Payton WR 6'0, 185 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9047 4 4 0 1.0 6.1 25.0% 1 1
Adrian Killins RB 5'9, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8431
Jawon Hamilton RB 5'9, 193 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8120







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Tre'Quan Smith WR 6'1, 201 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8179 95 52 724 54.7% 24.1% 7.6 45.3% 46.3% 1.45
Tristan Payton WR 6'0, 185 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9047 41 21 264 51.2% 10.4% 6.4 58.5% 39.0% 1.52
Jordan Franks TE 6'3, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752 32 20 246 62.5% 8.1% 7.7 53.1% 40.6% 1.77
Nick Patti QB/WR 5'11, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8397 27 13 104 48.1% 6.8% 3.9 55.6% 37.0% 0.96
D'erren Wilson WR 6'3, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 26 8 118 30.8% 6.6% 4.5 30.8% 26.9% 1.74
Cam Stewart WR 6'3, 188 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8460 26 11 90 42.3% 6.6% 3.5 73.1% 30.8% 0.97
Chris Johnson WR 5'10, 182 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) NR 24 14 187 58.3% 6.1% 7.8 54.2% 54.2% 0.84
Jordan Akins WR 6'3, 237 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8505 24 14 152 58.3% 6.1% 6.3 50.0% 41.7% 1.42
C.J. Jones RB 5'10, 216 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8328 20 11 65 55.0% 5.1% 3.3 55.0% 30.0% 0.96
Cedric Thompson TE 14 7 31 50.0% 3.5% 2.2 50.0% 14.3% 1.21
Taylor Oldham WR 6'2, 193 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7500 13 7 42 53.8% 3.3% 3.2 53.8% 30.8% 0.92
Blake Tiralosi WR 5'11, 194 Sr. NR NR 11 8 45 72.7% 2.8% 4.1 36.4% 54.5% 0.69
Michael Willett RB 5'9, 197 Jr. NR NR 10 7 89 70.0% 2.5% 8.9 70.0% 70.0% 1.12
Dontravious Wilson RB 5'10, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8201 9 6 33 66.7% 2.3% 3.7 77.8% 44.4% 0.75
Aaron Cochran TE 6'2, 260 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8206 6 4 22 66.7% 1.5% 3.7 66.7% 50.0% 0.59
Dredrick Snelson WR 6'0, 193 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8821
Dontay Mayfield WR 6'1, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8406
Jaquarius Bargnare WR 5'8, 198 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8365

5. Freshmen become sophomores

UCF started 10 different offensive linemen in 2015, including three freshmen and three sophomores. The top two running backs and top four wideouts (not including Patti) were freshmen.

This offense had absolutely no chance. For all we know, Holman improved dramatically just to produce the poor numbers he produced.

Amid the guaranteed struggles of youth, however, were flashes of potential. Leading rusher C.J. Jones averaged a perfectly solid 5.1 highlight yards per opportunity (while creating very few opportunities). Leading receiver Tre'Quan Smith averaged nearly 14 yards per catch and caught over 50 balls as a freshman; D'erren Wilson averaged 14.8 yards per catch. Tight end Jordan Franks (a wise old sage of a sophomore last year) had a catch rate of 63 percent.

And while recruiting rankings expire, so to speak -- eventually, being graded a four-star recruit in high school doesn't mean much if you've clearly not shown four-star potential on the field -- UCF's ceiling is immense from a recruiting perspective. Jones, Taj McGowan, Dontravious Wilson, and freshmen Adrian Killins and Jawon Hamilton were all three-star recruits per 247. Receiver Tristan Payton (247 and Rivals) and freshman Dredrick Snelson (Rivals) were four-stars, and Smith, D'erren Wilson, Cam Stewart, Chris Johnson, Jordan Akins, Taylor Oldham, and freshmen Dontay Mayfield and Jaquarius Bargnare were three-stars. And for that matter, 11 of the 12 linemen listed below were three-stars.

This means nothing if potential doesn't turn into production, but it does give UCF what we'll call athletic margin for error. Odds are good that some high-class weapons will emerge. And yes, the odds were good last year, too, and it didn't really happen.

Just as the entire offense collapsed at once, you could potentially see the whole thing rebound as well. UCF has all the experience it lacked a year ago, and while the Knights will still be pretty young and error-prone -- you could see as few as one to two senior starters -- it wouldn't be surprising to see this unit rise pretty far beyond last year's ratings.

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 78.5 2.37 2.3 30.9% 56.5% 23.7% 108.7 2.5% 7.6%
Rank 125 124 121 124 113 112 48 19 74
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Joey Grant C 1 22
Tarik Cook RG 10 21
Jason Rae C 5'11, 292 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7594 10 17
Chavis Dickey RT 6'4, 319 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8101 4 16
Aaron Evans LT 6'5, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 12 13
Tyler Hudanick LG 6'5, 294 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8100 8 8
Wyatt Miller RT 6'4, 293 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8343 7 7
Luke Palmer LG 6'3, 302 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8035 5 5
Colby Watson RG
1 4
Chester Brown RG 6'5, 327 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8488 0 3
Tate Hernly LT 6'3, 298 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8016 2 2
Christian Beard OL 6'4, 285 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115

Aaron Dowdell OL 6'4, 318 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8753

Jordan Johnson OL 6'3, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8646

Boman Swanson OL 6'4, 274 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8112

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.34 103 IsoPPP+ 86.2 111
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.7% 98 Succ. Rt. + 90.8 101
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.4 80 Off. FP+ 29.4 78
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 5.1 118 Redzone S&P+ 84.2 122
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.4 ACTUAL 13.0 -2.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 114 108 101 111
RUSHING 100 105 101 112
PASSING 110 108 102 113
Standard Downs 108 100 108
Passing Downs 112 102 115
Q1 Rk 114 1st Down Rk 98
Q2 Rk 102 2nd Down Rk 97
Q3 Rk 120 3rd Down Rk 106
Q4 Rk 41

6. An Erik Chinander defense

O'Leary's calling card was defense. He was Don McPherson's defensive coordinator at Syracuse in the 1980s, and after spending time as Bobby Ross' defensive line coach, both at Georgia Tech and with the San Diego Chargers, he landed back in Atlanta, served as defensive coordinator for Bill Lewis for one year, then took the head coaching job.

At UCF, O'Leary's defenses were almost always fast and effective. Between 2008 and 2014, the Knights ranked between 31st and 48th in Def. S&P+ every single year. The tumble in 2015 was dramatic, but for the time being, we'll still look at it as the outlier, not the new normal.

Senior defensive backs Drico Johnson and Shaquill Griffin were reserves on UCF's 2013 and 2014 squads, and lineman Jamiyus Pittman and linebacker Chequan Burkett joined the rotation in 2014. But for the most part, new defensive coordinator Eric Chinander doesn't inherit many players who were part of a good O'Leary defense.

Chinander comes with Frost from Eugene, where he got quite the Oregon innoculation. He was an intern in 2010, a defensive grad assistant in 2011-12, and after a year with former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, he returned for two years as Oregon's OLBs coach.

At its best, Oregon's recent defenses have basically been rubber bands -- bending and bending on standard downs and hoping for an offensive mistake, then snapping ahead and attacking on passing downs. And the Ducks patented the 1-2 punch in recent years, scoring a touchdown, then immediately attacking and searching for a turnover.

We could see the same dynamic at UCF. UCF's secondary is experienced and has been at its best when attacking close to the line of scrimmage. If a rebuilt defensive line can hold up a bit against the run, the pass defense could swarm on third-and-long.

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 88.3 2.79 3.76 37.2% 63.4% 22.1% 62.6 5.4% 2.2%
Rank 113 48 118 53 49 38 118 54 127
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jamiyus Pittman DT 6'0, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8575 12 32.0 4.7% 7.0 4.5 0 2 0 0
Thomas Niles DE 12 28.0 4.1% 3.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Lance McDowdell DT 12 24.0 3.5% 4.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Luke Adams DE
11 23.0 3.4% 2.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Tony Guerad DT 6'3, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7954 7 20.5 3.0% 5.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Monte Taylor DT 6'3, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8006 6 9.5 1.4% 3.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Seyvon Lowry DE 6'3, 252 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8399 11 8.5 1.2% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Joey Connors DT 6'1, 283 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220 8 7.5 1.1% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Brendon Hayes DE 6'3, 257 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8052
Josh Odigie DE 6'4, 255 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056
Joe Sanders DE 6'4, 256 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7985
Chris Mulumba DT 6'4, 270 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667
D.J. Davidson DT 6'5, 315 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8516
Dedrion Bacote DE 6'3, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8427








7. A total rebuild in the front

In Pittman, UCF does boast a decent, disruptive middle man. And in Tony Guerad, the Knights might have a second such player in the middle. Guerad had five tackles for loss in seven games but left the team in November; he stayed in school and ended up back on the roster this spring.

Add in senior Monte Taylor, who had 3.5 tackles for loss in half a season, and you've got potential strength at tackle. But the defensive end position, so long a strength of UCF defenses, is a smoking crater. Junior Seyvon Lowry is the only returning contributor, and he had all of 8.5 tackles last year. Frost signed three JUCO linemen, including two likely ends (Josh Odigie, Joe Sanders) and could get either redshirt freshman Brendon Hayes or true freshman Dedrion Bacote involved. But this unit is as unproven as it gets.

But on the bright side, the UCF pass rush was mostly awful last year anyway, so only so much regression is possible.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Domenic Spencer MLB 12 76.5 11.2% 9.5 1.0 0 0 1 0
Chequan Burkett OLB 6'2, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8167 12 44.0 6.4% 6.5 3.0 1 4 2 0
Pat Jasinski OLB 6'1, 209 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116 12 30.0 4.4% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Russell OLB 5'11, 239 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8006 12 19.0 2.8% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Demeitre Brim OLB 6'3, 225 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8389 9 17.5 2.6% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mark Rucker LB 5'9, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 12 12.0 1.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Quintin Hampton MLB
11 8.5 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shaquem Griffin LB 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7859 12 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Errol Clarke OLB 6'3, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8359 11 6.5 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Titus Davis OLB 6'2, 230 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8479 7 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin McDonald LB 6'2, 211 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8248 8 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mario Mathis LB 6'1, 243 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469
Neal Nelson LB 6'2, 227 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8331
Eric Mitchell LB 6'1, 224 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8444
Nate Evans LB 6'1, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8132
Monterious Loggins LB 6'0, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8052








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Drico Johnson FS 6'1, 207 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453 12 51.5 7.5% 4 0 0 1 0 1
Shaquill Griffin CB 6'1, 192 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8259 12 44.0 6.4% 0.5 0 2 13 0 0
Tre Neal SS 6'1, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8386 12 42.5 6.2% 0.5 0 0 3 0 0
Jerod Boykins CB 6'3, 213 Sr. NR NR 11 33.0 4.8% 1 0 0 2 0 0
D.J. Killings CB 6'0, 186 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8078 7 28.0 4.1% 4 0 0 1 1 0
T.J. Mutcherson SS 5'11, 191 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7919 9 26.0 3.8% 4 1 0 2 1 0
Kyle Gibson CB 5'11, 186 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8957 8 19.0 2.8% 2 0 0 1 0 0
Jeremy Boykins SS 6'2, 194 Sr. NR NR 8 16.5 2.4% 1 1 0 1 0 0
Brendin Straubel DB 12 13.5 2.0% 0 0 1 0 1 0
Rashard Causey DB 6'0, 188 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8681 6 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Tiralosi DB 5'11, 194 Sr. NR NR
Brandon Scott DB 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504
Bryon Brown DB 6'1, 165 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8015
Brandon Moore DB 6'1, 177 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8011








8. Experience in the back

The pass rush could obviously be a major issue, but with sturdy tackles and potentially solid linebacker play (Chequan Burkett is a solid blitzer, and yes, there are plenty of former star recruits here), it's conceivable that the run defense could hold up. And if UCF can force passing downs, the secondary could do pretty disruptive things even if the quarterback has time to pass.

Safeties Drico Johnson and T.J. Mutcherson and corner D.J. Killings all recorded four tackles for loss last year, and corner Shaquill Griffin defensed 15 passes. Five of the top six retunees are seniors, giving this unit all the experience that other units lack. Plus, there are high-upside youngsters in Tre Neal, Kyle Gibson, Rashard Causey, and Brandon Scott. Secondary is the least of UCF's concerns in 2016.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Caleb Houston 6'1, 210 Sr. 65 44.2 2 31 23 83.1%
Mac Loudermilk 6'1, 224 So. 9 50.4 1 2 1 33.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Donald Delahaye 5'9, 170 So. 33 61.6 11 2 33.3%
Matthew Wright 6'1, 179 So. 8 63.3 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Matthew Wright 6'1, 179 So. 17-17 8-10 80.0% 5-7 71.4%
Donald Delahaye 5'9, 170 So. 1-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tristan Payton KR 6'0, 185 So. 30 24.2 0
Hayden Jones KR 5'10, 173 Sr. 12 18.5 0
Chris Johnson PR 5'10, 182 Jr. 6 6.8 0
Blake Tiralosi PR 5'11, 194 Sr. 3 4.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 8
Field Goal Efficiency 45
Punt Return Success Rate 12
Kick Return Success Rate 12
Punt Success Rate 6
Kickoff Success Rate 45

9. Just think of how bad it could have been with bad special teams

It's endlessly frustrating to waste a good special teams unit. UCF's return game was awesome and consistent, Caleb Houston's punts were long and high, and Matthew Wright was dynamite for a freshman kicker.

And UCF still went 0-12. Call this a reminder that special teams are only about 10-15 percent of a given game, I guess.

The good news, though, is that everybody's back. Special teams is a frustrating small-sample exercise, so you can't guarantee another top-10 finish here, but this unit should still be a strength.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep SC State NR 18.2 85%
10-Sep at Michigan 6 -29.8 4%
17-Sep Maryland 62 -6.4 36%
24-Sep at Florida International 113 2.1 55%
1-Oct at East Carolina 78 -10.4 27%
7-Oct Tulane 122 11.1 74%
15-Oct Temple 61 -6.7 35%
22-Oct at Connecticut 81 -8.4 31%
29-Oct at Houston 53 -14.9 20%
12-Nov Cincinnati 70 -4.9 39%
19-Nov Tulsa 93 1.5 53%
26-Nov at South Florida 41 -17.7 15%
Projected wins: 4.7
Five-Year F/+ Rk -0.5% (60)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 57 / 59
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -20 / -11.0
2015 TO Luck/Game -3.5
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 92% (99%, 84%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 1.1 (-1.1)

10. Checking a lot of bounce-back boxes

S&P+ projections weight last season's production very heavily, but it also looks at recent trends. Sometimes you just have a bad year, but five-year history suggests it might be a one-off thing.

Obviously that applies. From 125th in S&P+, the Knights are projected to bounce back into the top 100, winning perhaps four to five games along the way. And with the youth, most of this rebounding team will return in 2017.

Of course, new energy combined with plenty of athletic potential could result in a rise higher than the 90s. I'm not going to call UCF an AAC contender or anything, but it wouldn't take that many good breaks to get the Knights back into bowl consideration. The schedule does feature an early trip to Michigan, but also includes six games against teams projected 78th or worse in S&P+. There are plenty of opportunities for wins.

With this youth (and with a first-time head coach), expect growth in fits and starts -- beating Maryland and losing to FIU, scaring Houston then getting blown out by Cincinnati. That sort of thing. But this was an intriguing hire, and with UCF likely still recruiting as well as anyone in the AAC not named Tom Herman, UCF should be back near the top of the conference in due time.