John Denton's Knights Insider: Second Scrimmage Won By Defense

April 3, 2010

By John Denton

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Gashed at times in last week's scrimmage by UCF's much-improved offense, the Knights defense got a measure of revenge in Saturday's 85-minute session.

Using several big plays up the middle from blossoming defensive tackle Troy Davis, an interception in the end zone by star cornerback Josh Robinson and solid play from the linebacker corps, UCF's defense stood out this week.

Just a week ago, it was UCF's offense that ruled the first scrimmage with tailback Brendan Kelly and quarterbacks Rob Calabrese and Jeffrey Godfrey making big plays. But that was against a mostly vanilla UCF defense, and the Knights had success on Saturday with a variety of stunts, blitzes and twists.

``We were very determined to do better to say the least,'' defensive end David Williams said. ``Last Saturday we felt pretty bad, but after watching film we felt better about doing a lot of things right. They are scholarship athletes and they are going to make plays even if we're in the right place at the right time. But this Saturday we were on a mission that we were going to be the ones that made the plays. We stepped up the challenge.''

And quite frankly no one on the field was better than Davis, the sophomore defensive tackle from Lawrenceville, Ga. Davis is somewhat undersized for the position at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, but his quickness and explosive quickness makes him a terror for offensive linemen at times. He batted down two passes and made two other stops in the backfield on Saturday.

``You'd have to be blind for (Davis) to not catch your eye,'' UCF coach George O'Leary said. ``With him and (Victor Gray) we've got some really strong-hand guys who are good at getting off blocks. And we're having trouble blocking (defensive end Bruce) Miller one on one. But the kids are really competing. I challenge them to bring two things - effort and enthusiasm - and they did that today. I thought we got better in some areas today.''

Miller, the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year last season, had a spectacular play on a third-and-15 when he came off the edge to pressure the quarterback and then chased down speedy running back Jonathan Davis from behind for a loss on the play.

Kelly and Davis split the carries at tailback. They are filling in for 1,000-yard back Brynn Harvey, who injured his knee on the first play of last week's scrimmage and is expected to miss the rest of spring drills. Kelly had a nifty 20-yard run with plenty of second effort, while Davis scored on a tough, one-yard run on the scrimmage's final play.

``There was good competition all day. Offensively, we dropped a couple of balls, but what we're looking for from a competition standpoint they are really battling,'' O'Leary said. ``They competed and when you come out without injuries, you have to be pleased.''

Calabrese, a junior to be next season, looks more poised in the pocket. And rather than bolting from the pocket when the protection breaks down, he's done a better job of keeping his eyes downfield and looking to make a play with his arm instead of his legs.

``Coach (Charlie) Taaffe and Coach O'Leary have been stressing making more plays when the protection breaks down and not just to take off running,'' Calabrese said. ``(Fullback) Billy Giovanetti did a good job working back to me on that one play, we found a seam and I got him the ball.''

And Godfrey, the true freshman who graduated from Miami Central High early so that he could compete for the starting job this spring, made several noteworthy plays. He scrambled several times for big gainers, and he showed off his emotions late in the day with two big-time throws. When he found Marquee Williams on consecutive deep outs with tight spirals, Godfrey pumped his fists and slapped fives with the coaches.

``Oh, he has the arm strength,'' O'Leary said confidently. ``I want to mix him around some (over the final two weeks of spring drills) and see how he handles it. The same with the offensive line. I want to get some of those guys playing multiple positions so we can get the best combinations on the field.''

But Saturday was a day that belonged to the UCF defense. The Knights got plenty of pressure on the quarterbacks and made a couple of big plays. Even reserve defensive back Omar Hansborough picked off a Brian Taaffe pass and returned it approximately 40 yards before the Conference USA officials on hand blew the play dead.

``We just went out and played within our schemes,'' UCF defensive back Darin Baldwin said. ``Last Saturday, we were just playing our base defense, but this week we put in some blitzes and worked with what we had.''


John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.