2012 OUTLOOK: UCF entertained thoughts of running the table in 2011 but it would be a shock to see this group achieve such a feat. The non-conference schedule, which lacked any major mismatches last season, now includes Ohio State and Missouri. The Golden Knights also have to face an FIU team that won a head-to-head meeting with UCF last September.
On the field, this team is fairly loaded with playmakers on offense and has a bunch of speedy, athletic guys on defense. That combination should once again cement the Knights as a contender in Conference USA, as they enter their final season participating in that league.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
With no other real viable options at QB behind earmarked starter Blake Bortles, UCF's coaching staff tried to challenge Bortles in different ways by mixing up the tempo of the offense and digging deep into the playbook to test his mental grasp of the scheme. Bortles passed all those tests, by all accounts, and the strong-armed signal caller is poised for a big year even though there's little proven depth behind him.
In addition to the outstanding trio of backs -- Storm Johnson, Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey -- UCF has a strong corps of talented young wideouts headlined by Josh Reese and early enrollee Breshad Perriman. The talent pool at receiver will increase if J.J. Worton can resolve his legal troubles and return to the good graces of the program after being suspended from spring drills.
Justin Tukes and Kevin Miller are vying for reps at TE, a spot vacated by departed senior Adam Nissley. The McCray brothers, Justin and Jordan, anchor the right side of the offensive line. Center Jordan Rae looks to be the workhorse of that group, and Georgia Tech transfer Phil Smith is taking advantage of the NCAA graduate rule to play right away and could end up starting from day one at left tackle.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
Cam Henderson leapfrogged Toby Jackson to become a starter at end opposite Troy Davis. Andrew Rice has carved out a starting job at tackle alongside Victor Gray, who's going to play both tackle and end at various points in 2011. The linebacking corps consists of expatriates like former Florida basketball player Ray Shipman and erstwhile RB Jonathan Davis, but there's a ton of athleticism and talent there to go with speed. Kemal Ishmael is now the man in the secondary since CB Josh Robinson declared early for the NFL draft.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
UCF's kickers had an ugly start to spring, missing multiple field-goal attempts when the Golden Knights put on the pressure. Coming out of the spring, Shawn Moffitt is slated to be the placekicker with Jamie Boyle tabbed to handle the punting duty. Punt return was a huge flaw for UCF last season, with a variety of players getting chances in that role and many of them muffing kicks.
QB Tyler Gabbert -- He already has Division I experience, courtesy of his time at Missouri. Gabbert arrives at UCF with some baggage but he'll also provide some legitimate competition at the position behind earmarked starter Blake Bortles.
WR Breshad Perriman -- Perriman is a grayshirt who signed with UCF last year, but didn't enroll at the university until this spring. He showed an immediate grasp of the playbook and carved out an opportunity in the receiver rotation. Perriman's father, Brett, played 10 years in the NFL after starring at Miami.
OL Phil Smith -- The former starter at Georgia Tech is capitalizing on the rule that allows players who already have obtained their undergraduate degrees to transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision program and play right away. Look for him to immediately enter the mix at tackle.
--Rob Calabrese spent most of the spring playing quarterback due to the absence of depth behind starter Blake Bortles, but he'll return at slot receiver when preseason camp opens.
--WR J.J. Worton was suspended from the team for the spring after being charge with hitting a sheriff's deputy while resisting arrest. Worton should return to the team once his legal issues are resolved. He was UCF's top pass catcher in 2011.
--OT Chris Martin and DT Jose Jose have been reinstated to the team. Martin was suspended from spring practice while Jose was dismissed following what was reported as a verbal altercation with coach George O'Leary.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.