John Denton's Knights Insider: Five Things to Watch at Camp

Aug. 4, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Fall camp for UCF's football team opens on Thursday and the kickoff comes not a moment too soon for a Knights' squad with big-time aspirations this season.

With a talented core of 18 seniors, a promising group of underclassmen and a favorable schedule there is a feeling that this could be a truly special season for the Knights. The belief is that UCF can compete for its second Conference USA title in school history and possibly even crack the Top 25 for the first time in school history.

But even with the loads of promise, there are naturally some questions surrounding the Knights before the regular-season opener on Sept. 4 at Bright House Networks Stadium against South Dakota. Here are the top five storylines surrounding UCF heading into training camp.

1. Will it be Rob Calabrese, Jeffrey Godfrey or both at quarterback?

Calabrese, a part-time starter each of the past two seasons, will open camp as the starter, a position that he secured with a solid spring. But the big-armed Godfrey, a true freshman who impressed when he enrolled in school early, could be approaching fast behind Calabrese.

Calabrese worked hard in the spring on keeping his emotions in check and making better decisions. There was an emphasis on Calabrese better knowing his reads and delivering the ball on time. And when a play does break down, he showed an improved knack of scrambling to keep the pass play alive rather than just bolting the pocket.

Godfrey immediately impressed head coach George O'Leary - not an easy thing to do - with his poise and ability to think the game. O'Leary marveled at the way the freshman never seemed to make the same mistake twice and the moment clearly didn't seem too big for him.

O'Leary has vowed both quarterbacks will play, but ultimately one will earn the lion's share of the playing time. Will it be Calabrese or Godfrey? Time will ultimately tell.

2. Can Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Miller have another stellar season with the focus being entirely on him?

Miller's credentials as UCF's most respected and talented player are unquestioned. He is the leader among active college football players with both his 27 career sacks and 44 tackles for loss.

But with standout tackle Torell Troup now in the NFL and others like Travis Timmons and Jarvis Geathers having graduated, more of the spotlight than ever will be on Miller this season. That means more double teams, more tight ends lined up over him and chip blocks from running backs.

To combat that, UCF plans to keep Miller on the move and will play him at defensive tackle at times as well as end. But what will help ease some of the pressure off of Miller will be the emergence of linemen like Darius Nall, David Williams and E.J. Dunston.

If Miller gets the help he needs along the defensive line, he could be headed for a record-breaking sack season and secure a spot as a high NFL Draft pick.

3. Can Brendan Kelly and Jonathan Davis carry the load at tailback until workhorse back Brynn Harvey is recovered from a spring knee injury?

UCF headed into spring ball with no questions whatsoever about the running game with workhorse back Brynn Harvey back following a solid sophomore season. But those plans were short circuited in the spring when Harvey went down with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out until mid-September.

Gone, temporarily at least, is a back that ran for 1,109 yards and 14 touchdowns. He even answered some of the questions about his durability with multiple games of at least 30 carries and a 42-carry (and 219 yards) effort against Memphis.

Enter Kelly and Davis to try and fill the void. Kelly is a big back who runs well between the tackles and fights hard for yardage after the first contact. Davis has all the tools to be a star in UCF's offense and showed flashes of brilliance last season, but he must become a more disciplined back.

Kelly won the starting job in spring ball and will open with the first unit, but ultimately it could be Davis' spot.

4. Can Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael avoid a sophomore slump and become stars in the UCF secondary?

When Joe Burnett graduated two years ago, some Knight fans wondered if UCF would ever see another cornerback as dynamic as the former All-American. Well, those concerns were answered last season as Robinson led all true freshmen with six interceptions and earned unanimous Freshman All-American honors.

And making the secondary's prospects even better is the emergence of Ishmael at safety. Players such as Derrick Hallman marvel at the maturity and smarts of Ishmael, who was so good as a true freshman that Hallman was moved back to linebacker.

This offseason, Robinson worked to become a more complete cornerback. He wants to do more of the little things like smothering the short passes, supporting the run and return a few kick as well as continuing to make the big plays. And Ishmael has gotten bigger with a dedicated weight-lifting program to become a more physical player.

Continued growth from Robinson and Ishmael, combined with loads of experience at linebacker and star power along the defensive line, could be the difference in UCF becoming an elite defense.

5. Who are five players to watch out for in this camp?

*** Quincy McDuffie - Electric, explosive, dynamic, dependable. Pick an adjective and they've likely been used by UCF players and coaches to describe McDufie, who burst on the scene last season with a 95-yard kickoff return in his first college game. He took another kick back 65 yards in the St. Pete Bowl. There's a point of emphasis to get the ball into his hands more this season and UCF will do that with running plays, in the passing game and of course on kick returns. He's a special player and could be UCF's breakout athlete this season.

*** Chance Henderson - He's back at middle linebacker after missing all of last season with a knee injury. UCF suffered a big loss with the graduation of Cory Hogue, but Henderson's return calms those fears. A three-year starter before his injury, Henderson hopes to get back to the level he was at before being hurt almost a year ago. If he's fully healthy as expected, UCF could have one of the nation's best run defenses again.

*** Freshmen Torrian Wilson and Joshua Reese - The additions of Wilson and Reese - the handiwork of assistant head coach/ace recruiter David Kelly - helped to give the Knights their best recruiting haul ever. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Wilson has all the tools to be a dominant player for the Knights. It's rare that freshmen get major playing time along the offensive line with O'Leary, but the former high school All-American will get every shot to contribute right away. As for Reese, he'll push the returning veterans at wide receiver for playing time. And Kelly has already said that his freshmen wide outs will get plenty of opportunities in camp in an effort to promote competition.

*** Kamar Aiken - Aiken knows what is on the line for him this season and he's hoping to have a career year as a senior. He's hoping to follow in the footsteps of former UCF greats Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker as elite NFL receivers. He's shown a knack for making the spectacular catches, but has struggled at times catching the routine hitch and slant throws. He's worked hard this summer catching dozens of balls in an effort to become more consistent. He caught two TD passes in the St. Pete Bowl and a big senior year could lead him on a path to the pros.

*** Jah Reid - At 6-foot-7, 326 pounds, Reid might have the most pro potential of any UCF player. (6-foot-6 tight end Adam Nissley is another). Reid, a two-year starter, was arguably UCF's most improved player last season and was really good - as evidenced by his spot at a first-team all-conference performer. But the Knights need him to make the leap from good to downright dominant this season. The push now is for Reid to use his hands and his massive wingspan more to deliver blows. With Reid and Nissley side by side at tackle and tight end, UCF could have a dominant right side to run behind.


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