March 19, 2010
By Leigh Torbin
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF football team opens its highly anticipated spring practice today. The Knights will practice primarily on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays until the season culminates with the Spring Game on April 17 at 1 p.m., a centerpiece of the school's annual Hall of Fame Weekend.
Fans are welcome to attend all practices and get their first glimpses at the 2010 Knights as they begin their quest for the Conference USA championship, but are reminded that there is NO PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEOGRAPHY permitted and are asked to not be overly descriptive in their public accounts of the sessions.
Below is a quick glimpse of what to expect on the field starting today. To see the Knights in action in 2010, with season tickets starting at $99, either call the UCF Athletic Ticket Office at (407) 823-1000 or logon to UCFAthletics.com. Current season ticket holders have until April 1 to renew their tickets and maintain their seats.
UCF doesn't have to replace many starters this spring but one of the is quarterback Brett Hodges whose single year at UCF after transferring from Wake Forest was a great one as the Winter Park native went 7-3 as a starter and led UCF to a bowl game. His backup, Rob Calabrese, will get the first shot at replacing Hodges. Calabrese saw action in seven games last fall with three starts and threw for three touchdowns without an interception.
Entering camp behind Calabrese is true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey, a January enrollee from Miami Central High School where he became the leading passer in Miami-Dade County's proud football history this past fall in leading his team to the state semifinals. Palm Harbor native L.D. Crow will be in the mix as well after missing the fall due to his transfer from Stanford and working with UCF's scout team during the fall. Brian Taaffe and Andy Slowik round out UCF's quarterback corps.
Brynn Harvey came into his own as a true sophomore last fall and established himself as one of the best backs in Conference USA, earning himself an honorable mention on the all-conference squad. His 1,109 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns eclipsed Kevin Smith's sophomore year numbers from the 2006 season. Harvey proved to be a solid blocker and also caught 14 passes out of the backfield as well. He showed his durability in UCF's win over Memphis when he carried the ball 42 times for 219 yards, one of five 100-plus yard games in 2009 for the Largo native.
Jonathan Davis had a strong showing as a true freshman and enters the spring as Harvey's backup. Davis had 64 carries last year for 310 yards (4.8 avg.) and four touchdowns. The 4.8 yards per carry average led the Knights. Ronnie Weaver has proven to be a steady hand at tailback as well as an ace special teams player for UCF. The former walk-on had 19 carries in 2009 for 86 yards and one score. True junior Brandon Davis rounds out the group.
At fullback, UCF has two options who both saw significant action during the 2009 season. Both redshirt sophomores, Brendan Kelly and Billy Giovanetti both played in 10 games for UCF last fall in their debut seasons for the Knights. Each was used mainly as a blocker on offense in addition to heavy special teams play, but also ended up with a few carries and receptions, both catching a touchdown pass during the year.
The Knights made steady strides last fall on the offensive line as the unit took a significant step forward from 2008 under the mindful eye of Brent Key, an All-ACC lineman in his playing days at Georgia Tech, who was in his first year with that position group at UCF. The Knights will return four starters who helped the team become one of America's most improved offenses in 2009.
Right tackle Jah Reid is UCF's best lineman as the spring season opens after a first-team All-C-USA season in 2009 where he started all 13 games. Abre Leggins, a transfer who started games at both left tackle and left guard in 2009, shifts to the right side behind Reid to start the spring. In his first year as a full-time starter, Nick Pieschel developed nicely at left tackle where the 6-7 299-pound redshirt junior expects to start for a second straight year, currently ahead of converted defensive lineman Chris Martin.
The Knights hope to have Cliff McCray back for the 2010 season after the senior helped solidify the unit by starting at both left and right guard after missing the 2008 season. Behind McCray at left guard this spring is Chad Hounshell who earned a letter last fall and even earned a start in UCF's game at Texas.
At right guard, C-USA All-Freshman team pick Theo Goins showed tremendous promise last fall and will continue to lead where he made five impressive starts to close out the 2009 campaign. Redshirt freshman Rey Cunha starts the spring behind Goins.
Zac Norris is first in line to try and replace graduated senior center Ian Bustillo with converting defensive lineman Jordan Rae and true freshman Perry Meikeljohn behind him as the curtain rises on the spring of 2010.
UCF's core of wide receivers is strong and deep with many veterans returning from 2009 and several freshmen poised to jump into the rotation.
Kamar Aiken led UCF with 610 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last fall and aims to continue his development as a senior. After missing all of the 2008 season, A.J. Guyton was back to his old self in 2009, leading UCF with 44 receptions and ranking second to Aiken with 572 receiving yards.
Quincy McDuffie came on strong as the year progressed and the true sophomore will be called upon often this spring. One of the team's fastest players, McDuffie had a kickoff return for a touchdown in 2009 and made perhaps the most spectacular play of the year on a leaping touchdown catch in the win over No. 13 Houston. Fifth-year senior Jamar Newsome starts the spring behind McDuffie. Newsome, along with Brian Watters, have both been steady contributors the past few seasons for UCF.
Redshirt freshmen Nico Flores, Marquee Williams and Dontravius Floyd are amongst the other faces who will make this a tremendous group for UCF. Flores was recently shifted to wide receiver from quarterback. His tremendous athletic ability allowed him to excel on the scout team last fall as a receiver many weeks.
A year after juggling positions, Adam Nissley moved into a regular starting role at tight end in 2009 and did not disappoint, proving to be a capable blocker while also catching 10 passes for UCF. Willie Gatejens and D.J. Brown will line up behind Nissley .
UCF's H-Backs got a good amount of work last fall and will do as well this year. Ricky Kay stepped up his play when given a chance due to injury and enters the spring as UCF's starter. He took over mid-game against Memphis, making four catches in that contest for 52 yards and a touchdown. Latavius Murray joins the H-Back corps this spring. Murray was a tailback in 2008 before missing the 2009 season while recovering from off-season knee surgery.
The Knights proved to have one of the best defensive lines in football last fall, led by Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Miller and a pair of potential NFL Draft picks in Torell Troup and Jarvis Geathers. The pressure generated helped the Knights lead C-USA in rushing defense for the second consecutive year. Much of this unit is back together again.
Miller's 27 career sacks leads all active players in the nation while is 44 career tackles for loss rank him second nationally. He ranks amongst the top FBS players in the state of Florida's proud college football history in those categories as well. A versatile end with the brawn to play at tackle in UCF's nickel package, more great things are expected from Miller in 2010.
Starting at the opposite end is once again David Williams who has played in all 25 games the past two years and made six TFLs in 2009 . Darius Nall missed 2008 while recovering from cancer surgery but was back to form in 2009. Used mainly as a pass rushing specialist, Nall played in all 13 games, making four sacks and forcing seven hurries. He will line up behind Williams this fall while Troy Davis looks to hold down the backup spot behind Miller at the opposite end. Jack Cater is also shifting down from linebacker to end this spring to see if he can crack the two-deep and help the team here.
The Knights will have two new starters at defensive tackle this year after Troup and Travis Timmons graduated and the first cracks will go to fifth-year senior Wes Tunuufi-Sauvao and redshirt freshman Frankie Davis. Behind them to start the spring are Redshirt freshman Victor Gray and January enrollee E.J. Dunston. Veteran Rashidi Haughton and redshirt freshman Brandon Bryant are also faces to watch in this area.
The Knights have been solid at linebacker the past few seasons and things are not expected to change in 2010. A pair of true seniors and honorable mention Conference USA players anchor the unit from the outside positions.
Derrick Hallman, who has started for UCF and excelled at both strong safety and linebacker remains as the top strongside linebacker this spring. Hallman has 193 career tackles to his credit and leads all returnees with his 85 from last fall. Lawrence Young has always been dependable manning the weakside post for the past two years, making 72 stops in 2008 and 78 last year, including 11 TFLs. Loren Robinson will get a shot at backing up Hallman this spring while Young's reserve looks to be Michael Dominguez, a transfer from FIU who has a single year of eligibility for the Knights.
The middle linebacking post is currently in the hands of Josh Linam who served as a capable backup to Cory Hogue in 2009. D.J. Williams is behind Linum entering spring drills while Chance Henderson will aim to work his way back into this mix after missing all of 2009 with a knee injury. Henderson was fifth on the team in 2008 with 57 tackles and is a welcome addition to UCF's active roster.
A young secondary in 2009 came together nicely for UCF which graduated four senior starters after the 2008 season. Josh Robinson proved to be a unanimous first-team Freshman All-American at one corner to highlight the group which, reflective of its youth and passion, got better as the year went along.
Robinson did not intercept a pass until the season's fifth game but went on to make a total of six in all, the most of any true freshman in the nation and matching for the overall freshman lead nationally. His 14 total passes defended made him the only true freshman to rank amongst the top 100 players in the NCAA in that category. The six interceptions were one better than UCF's previous freshman school record of five set by current Pittsburgh Steeler Joe Burnett. He made a total of 69 tackles last fall while starting each of the final 11 games, including the St. Petersburg Bowl. Behind Robinson is the capable Justin Boddie, a senior who started 11 games last fall and made 58 tackles on the year with an interception and four pass breakups.
At the opposite corner, Emery Allen returns for his fifth year from an injury that kept him out for all but a cameo appearance in 2009. Allen has played in 34 career games as a Knight and will be called upon to step forward this spring. Pushing Allen will be A.J. Bouye, one of many true freshmen to get to play in UCF's secondary last fall. The native Louisianan saw action in 10 games including extensive work on special teams.
Kemal Ishmael was another January, 2009 enrollee who lept to the top of the depth chart, starting nine games in all at free safety and allowing Derrick Hallman to move back to linebacker. One of UCF's most sound tacklers, Ishmael ranked fourth on the team with 70 stops on the year. Behind Ishmael is another promising member of the 2009 signing class in redshirt freshman Jarrett Swaby who will push for a spot on the field.
Darin Baldwin is the team's top strong safety coming into camp after assuming that starting role for parts of the 2009 campaign. He made 32 tackles and broke up seven passes for UCF a year ago. Behind Baldwin is another true senior in Reggie Weams who has logged 38 games of action for UCF, making 24 tackles and one interception a year ago. January enrollees Jordan Ozerities and Cornelius Whitehead will also show what they can do as defensive backs this spring.
The Knights bring back both starting kicker Nick Cattoi and punter Blake Clingan for 2010. Cattoi connected on 14-of-20 field goals in 2009 with a long of 50 and a solid 5-for-7 mark on kicks of 40 yards or longer. Cattoi handled kickoffs as well with Jamie Boyle getting limited action there. Clingan's distance was down in 2009, averaging 37.3 yards per punt, but his great hang time helped UCF rank amongst the nation's elite in punt coverage, swaying field position in UCF's favor several times.
Charley Hughlett has been a dependable long snapper for his first two years at UCF, earning C-USA all-freshman accolades in 2008 and honorable mention all-conference recognition in 2009 for a mostly anonymous job. Clingan and Austin Hudson both gained experience holding for placement kicks in 2009 and will battle for that role again this spring.