John Denton's Knights Insider: A Rae of Light For UCF's Offensive Line

Dec. 15, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When he's not crunching opposing nose guards as one of the anchors on UCF's offensive line, Jordan Rae is usually crunching numbers.

A finance major, Rae recently took final exams for marketing, systems management, accounting and finance classes. But he admittedly breezed through them because of his uncanny knack of understanding numbers and formulas.

But as for football, making the adjustment from playing on the defensive line last season to playing center along the offensive line this season took a little more work from the studious and deep-thinking Rae.

But in the end, it was a problem that Rae easily solved.

``I'd say football is tougher for me. I really enjoy finances and to me it's easy to understand it and it all goes along together,'' Rae said. ``But coming from defense to offense, that was rough and I had to spend a lot of extra time in the film room.''

That work paid off as Rae, a redshirt sophomore from Weston, cleared up the question marks at center for the Knights this season and became a bedrock along the line. His play helped the Knights compile a 10-3 record, win the Conference USA title and earn a spot in the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl opposite Georgia (6-6).

Rae pronounced himself fully healthy after being hampered by a serious right ankle injury the last four weeks of the regular season when the Knights returned to practice on Tuesday. UCF had been off since beating SMU 17-7 in the C-USA title game. Rae said the time off did his ankle plenty of good, and the success the Knights have had was particularly satisfying to him because of the concerns about his ability to thrive at center.

``It feels really good doing what I did this season,'' said the 6-foot-2, 271-poundeer. ``Pressure comes with the territory because the center is the head of the line. You have to set the tone for everyone else. I looked at it as a challenge, and us winning the conference championship that was great. And if you look at some of the stats that we had as an offense, it was a good feeling doing what we did as an offense.''

The blocking of Rae and senior stalwarts Jah Reid and Nick Pieschel helped the Knights average 33.8 points and 384.2 yards a game. The Knights had 50 more first downs that the opposition on the season and three players - Freshman All-American quarterback Jeff Godfrey, C-USA Championship Game MVP Latavius Murray and Ronnie Weaver - all ran for at least 10 TDs. Wisconsin was the only other team in the country to have at least three backs with 10 rushing TDs.

Because the center is responsible for making most all of the calls along the offensive line for UCF, Rae had to use his smarts to learn how to play the offensive line position inside and out. He was usually a regular in offensive line coach Brent Key's office and in the film room. During the spring, he estimates he watched three hours of film a day for four days a week. And during the season he was usually studying film in the darkness for at least 90 minutes a night.

``It was constantly evolving because as soon as I'd learn one thing they'd give me another thing,'' Rae said with a laugh. ``It was kind of rough at first, but I got it. And during the season, I'd be in there by myself, with another offensive lineman or (quarterback) Jeff (Godfrey) pretty much every day except Friday.''

Rae was a defensive lineman this time last year when UCF lost 45-23 to Rutgers in the St. Pete Bowl. The Knights were badly outplayed along the offensive line in that game as the team ran for just 35 yards and allowed six sacks. The Knights' offensive line used that moment as motivation all season, and they have vowed that this will be different this time around in the Liberty Bowl against the University of Georgia.

``That's been our mentality all season, always looking back at that bowl game. From the day we came back to school January, the whole mentality and everything that we did was about never letting that happen again,'' Rae said. ``Now, we've got to make sure it doesn't happen against Georgia. ... This is a big marquee game for us. We need to show what we can do.''


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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.