UCF's Defense in Midseason Form

April 17, 2010

By Andrew Gavin

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - While much of the attention during Saturday's Spring Game centered on the play of quarterbacks Jeffrey Godfrey and Rob Calabrese and the UCF offense, Bruce Miller and the old mainstays on the defensive side of the ball already looked set for the 2010 opener.

Including Miller, the reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, and Josh Robinson, a freshman All-American in 2009, UCF returns seven starting players from a defense which led C-USA in total defense a season ago while ranking fourth nationally in rushing defense.

If Saturday is any indication, the defense has not taken a step back from 2009's success despite the loss of departed standouts Cory Hogue and Torrell Troup. The first-string defense did not allow a point and was highlighted by two Miller sacks, and two interceptions, including a 21-yard pick-six by senior Darin Baldwin.

The unit's chemistry and experience is why Miller believes his defense has clicked so well this spring to improve on last year.

"With our chemistry and experience we really haven't taken a step back and instead have just kept going to build on last year," Miller said. "We had a few spots to fill with guys leaving but I think Chance [Henderson] has done a great job with mic linebacker and E.J. [Dunston] has done well filling in for Torrell Troup. Usually you take a step back and use the spring to get back to where you were and back to the pace of the game, but we have kept moving forward."

Add to that core group redshirt seniors Wes Tunuufi Savao, Chance Henderson and Emery Allen, and the Knights again have visions of not only being the top defense in C-USA, but also one of the best nationally.

"We want to be the best in the conference without a doubt, but we are taking it a step higher this year and [defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable] wants us to be the best in the nation," said senior Derrick Hallman, one of eight seniors that started Saturday on defense.

After missing last season with an injury, Henderson's play replacing Hogue and directing the defense at middle linebacker will be key moving into 2010. He had four solo tackles Saturday and showed no ill effects 2009's injury.

"It was really exciting being back out there," Henderson said. "I was glad to have the pleasure to come back and play with this defense, and being able to contribute is just a blessing. Having the chemistry and experience that we have you kind of know each other and can feel each other out. It definitely helps having a defense that has played with each other for so many games, and I think we showed that by playing well today."