Returning Starters – Offense: 5 Defense: 4
Preview: Despite losing Blake Bortles to the NFL prior to the 2014 campaign UCF still had another strong showing going 9-4 overall with a 7-1 mark in the AAC. The Knights have been a program on the rise over the past decade, but this could be the year the team takes a step back with only 9 returning starters back in the fold. Head coach George O’Leary isn’t the most exciting coach in college football, but he’s been able to find success in Central Florida going 81-60 overall in his 11 years as the head man.
The big question last season was, who’s going to replace Blake Bortles, and the team found their answer with QB Justin Holman. The new starting QB Holman was inconsistent early on, but he went on to have a solid campaign throwing for nearly 3,000 yards while racking up 23 TDs through the air. The O-line should be a strength with 3 returning starters to a unit that has experience. The backfield is also in good hands with William Stanback who’s ready to build off of his second straight all-conference selection. Holes must be filled at the receiving position with nearly every contributor needing to be replaced. The big loss was Breshad Perriman declaring early for the NFL.
The UCF defense was one of the top units in the country a season ago, but this group is in rebuild mode with only 4 starters returning. The strength of the defense will be the D-line as this unit returns the most experience with 3 starters back. The front will be led by veteran end Thomas Niles along with tackles Anderson and McDowdell. The line backing corps returns 1 starter and this unit will look to build around Burkett and Clarke. The secondary was decimated as three players expired their eligibility while Glenn moved on to the NFL early. The secondary will look to a number of young guys to prove themselves early on.
Prediction: UCF has to replace a number of contributors, but there still appears to be enough key returning talent to have the Knight compete near the top of the AAC again this season. The Knights are hoping to reload as oppose to rebuild and in the less than dominant AAC, UCF should still be a force. If the defense can find answers in the secondary this’ll remain one of the better units in the conference. We’ll get an idea where this squad stands after nonconference road games against Stanford and South Carolina.
Projected Record: 8-4 (6-2)