Baldwin Emerges as Leader of a Young Knights' Secondary

Sept. 29, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.UCFAthletics.com) - UCF's 2008 football team saw the graduation of a very experienced and talented secondary. Junior cornerback Darin Baldwin (Homestead, Fla.) came into the 2009 season ready to replace the leadership roles that former Knights' Joe Burnett and Johnell Neal once held.

In a secondary loaded with a lot of young, talented freshman, UCF looks to Baldwin to provide experience and leadership. Baldwin, who has registered 21 total tackles (17 solo, four assisted), five pass break-ups, and three kick returns for 101 yards this season, has been all of what the Knights' expected since recruiting him out of South Dade High School.

While at South Dade, Baldwin was named first team All-State by the Florida Sports Writers Association. In his senior year, Baldwin tallied 40 tackles, picked off five passes and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. Baldwin's numbers earned him the honor and recognition of being named the 28th ranked cornerback recruit in the nation by Scout.com in the class of 2005.

After posting eight tackles (four solo, four assisted) and a tackle-for-loss last week in a 19-14 loss at East Carolina, Baldwin is currently fifth on the team in total tackles (21) and first on the team in pass break-ups (five).

The Knights' prepare to return home to face C-USA opponent Memphis this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. UCFAthletics.com recently caught up with Baldwin to get his thoughts on the Knights' young secondary, Saturday's game against Memphis and UCF's play so far this season.

What is the most important element in playing cornerback?

"The most important element in playing cornerback is always being aware of your surroundings. Corners have to be able to see the whole field and cannot have tunnel vision. We have to be able to maintain a good back pedal and cannot let a receiver get behind us."

What has the secondary done well through four games and what does the unit have to get better at?

"I think the secondary has done a good job stopping teams from throwing the deep ball. I feel that as a whole we have to do a better job of coming up and making the tackles. It is important for us to not give up three or four extra yards after the catch."

There are three true freshmen playing at DB (Josh Robinson, Kemal Ishmael, A.J. Bouye). How would you assess their progress?

"All those guys have learned so fast on the field. They are very smart players and they are excellent athletes. I feel that every player in Division I is a good athlete, but being a freshman out there means you're something special. Those guys learned the playbook really fast, and that has gotten them on the field early on."

What has made you a successful kick returner?

"I feel it is the good blocking schemes that the coaches put up in practice. I know that everyone always sees me or Quincy McDuffie back there getting the ball, but it is the guys up front who are blocking well. They give us the chance to make a good cut and find a good hole."

What do you think of Memphis on offense?

"They have big, tall receivers on offense that they are able to just throw the ball up to. The run a no-huddle offense that is forcing teams to move fast. We will definitely be prepared for them. It is only Tuesday, and I feel we will get a better look as the week progresses."

UCF is 4-0 vs. Memphis since joining C-USA. Does that give you confidence this week or fear that they'll be extra motivated?

"I do not think that we or any team can go by the past, whether we are 4-0 or 0-3 against a team. Each team gives out 85 scholarships each year, and rosters are loaded with good, talented players across the board. Any given Saturday, both teams will still come out and play hard despite what has happened the previous years."

UCF is undefeated at home this year. How important is protecting your turf on Saturday?

"It is certainly important to not let anyone come into your own house and beat you. We need to protect our house. It is our house, and no one will come into our house and disrespect us. So I feel it is important to protect what is ours."

UCF has been a better second half team this year. Is there any reason why the team gets better as the game goes on?

"Things just start to click for us as the game goes on. I still feel that we are clicking in both the first and second halves, but as we start to pick up the flow of the game into the second half, we start clicking on all cylinders. We seem to come out hard from the opening kickoff, but everyone sees us play even harder in the second half when we start to bring it all together."

If you could run a kickoff back for a touchdown or an interception back for a touchdown, which would you choose and why?

"It would definitely be an interception. I feel that it makes things a lot better to score from there, and then come back out fired up to play more. That gives the defense the momentum to play harder and stop them again."

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