2011 UCF Football Season Preview

Aug. 3, 2011

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By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - As soon as the brakes slam into place, a typical reaction at the end of a dizzying thrill ride can go something like this: "We HAVE to do that again!"

When the safety contraptions are released, the exhilarating sprint to return to the line is on.

UCF's players, coaches, alumni and fans are now approaching the end of that line as the train pulls into the loading station, and they are diligently preparing for what could evolve into yet another eye-opening ride. However the experience does not begin until Sept. 3, so let us stop and get a powdered elephant ear as we quickly dissect the 2011 UCF football team, which is coming off a Conference USA title and an AutoZone Liberty Bowl victory.

(All statistics are from 2010)

Jeff Godfrey - So. - 5-11/182 - 159-for-238, 8 INT, 13 TD, 2,159 YDS
Blake Bortles - RFr. - 6-4/223 - Oviedo High School
Rob Calabrese - Sr. - 6-2/213 - 25-for-39, 2 INT, 2 TD, 316 YDS

UCF's dual-threat quarterback, Jeff Godfrey, received plenty of preseason praise by being selected to the Davey O'Brien Award and the College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Trophy Watch Lists. And why not since he was the C-USA Freshman of the Year as well as a Freshman All-American. The Miami native guided the Knights to a program-record 11 victories as well as a top-20 ranking to end 2011, and he accomplished those feats by leading all FBS freshmen with a 66.8 completion percentage. Godfrey also rushed for a UCF quarterback single-season record 566 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Two solid arms anchor the quarterback position behind Godfrey. Redshirt freshman Blake Bortles racked up a Seminole County-record 5,576 career yards at Oviedo High School, and received plenty of reps with the second team during spring ball. Meanwhile, Rob Calabrese has transitioned into a wide receiver for his senior year, but has thrown for 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns during his UCF career.

Wide Receiver
Quincy McDuffie - Jr. - 5-10/175 - 13 REC, 144 YDS, 2 TD
Khymest Williams - RSr. - 5-10/179 - 5 REC, 73 YDS, 0 TD

A.J. Guyton - RSr. - 5-11/198 - 28 REC, 353 YDS, 3 TD
Marquee Williams - RSo. - 6-0/202 - 1 REC, 15 YDS, 0 TD

Godfrey did lose wide receivers Brian Watters (47 receptions), Jamar Newsome (37) and Kamar Aiken (32) from last year's championship squad. That only means that A.J. Guyton steps up as the veteran wideout for 2011. The senior is approaching his 100th-career reception, bringing totals of 95 catches for 1,178 yards into his final year with the Black and Gold. Godfrey found Guyton on a 44-yard scoring strike in a 16-point second quarter vs. Houston in what was his longest reception of 2010.

Quincy McDuffie maybe earning national publicity for his work as a kick returner, yet the junior still managed 13 receptions and two touchdowns as a sophomore. Khymest Williams, Marquee Williams, Calabrese and redshirt freshmen Josh Reese and J.J. Worton all will be looked upon as well to become primary targets for the sophomore quarterback.

Tight End/H-Backs
TE - Adam Nissley - RSr. - 6-6/267 - 6 REC, 59 YDS, 1 TD
TE - D.J. Brown - RSo. - Dunnellon High School

HB - Brendan Kelly - RJr. - 35 ATT, 138 YDS, 1 TD
HB - Dontravius Floyd - RSo. - 10 GP

FB - Billy Giovanetti - RJr. - 1 REC, 6 YDS

The do-it-all package for the Knights includes tight end Adam Nissley, H-back Brendan Kelly and fullback Billy Giovanetti. The trio appeared in all 14 contests in 2010, and add in former high school wideout Dontravius Floyd and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe will have a plethora of options in the playbook.

One of the most underappreciated players on the roster, Nissley continues to just do his job. Protecting the UCF signal-caller and holding down the end of the line since 2008, the Cumming, Ga., native has 17-career receptions, highlighted by a three-yard touchdown haul at the end of the second quarter vs. Rice last year.

Latavius Murray - RJr. - 6-3/225 - 111 ATT, 637 YDS, 11 TD
Ronnie Weaver - RSr. - 6-0/210 - 186 ATT, 890 YDS, 11 TD
Brynn Harvey - RJr. - 6-1/207 - 261 ATT, 1,109 YDS, 14 TD in 2009

UCF's 2010 leading rusher. The AutoZone Liberty Bowl MVP and the C-USA Championship Game MVP. And the workhorse of the 2009 roster. This all sounds like the bio of one individual running back. In the Knights' case, though, it is only a small glimpse into a highly-talented 2011 backfield.

Combined with Godfrey's 10 touchdowns last year, Ronnie Weaver (14), Latavius Murray (14) and Brynn Harvey (15) have supplied UCF with a total of 53 rushing touchdowns since 2008. Murray's 10-yard fourth-quarter score to defeat Georgia, 10-6, in the Liberty Bowl may rank as the most-important rushing touchdown in UCF history as it was the Knights' first bowl-game victory.

Weaver has amassed at least 100 carries twice in three seasons as a Knight, rushed for six points three times against Rice last year and was on the All-C-USA Second Team. And Harvey has recovered from a torn ACL suffered in the spring of 2010 to help make UCF one of the most dynamic teams in the nation at running back.

Offensive Line
LT - Chris Martin - RSo. - 6-5/294 - 10 GP, 3 GS at left tackle
LT - Torrian Wilson - RFr. - 6-4/309 - Miami Northwestern High School

LG - Cliff McCray - RSr. - 6-2/305 - 11 GP, 7 GS at left guard
LG - Jordan McCray - So. - 6-4/309 - 6 GP, 0 GS

C - Jordan Rae - RJr. - 6-2/272 - 13 GP, 13 GS at center
C - Perry Meiklejohn - RFr. - 6-3/298 - Westminster Christian School

RG - Theo Goins - RJr. - 6-4/316 - 13 GP, 7 GS at left guard
RG - Justin McCray - So. - 6-4/307 - 7 GP, 0 GS

RT - Nick Pieschel - RSr. - 6-7/306 - 14 GP, 14 GS at right guard
RT - Tony Jacob - RFr. - 6-8/343 - Westlake High School

Paving the way for the offense, UCF's returning linemen combined for 44 starts last season, and even though sophomore Chris Martin earned just three starts at left tackle, one of those occurred in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The departure of Jah Reid to the NFL Draft and the Baltimore Ravens left open the right tackle position, but simple readjustments by Theo Goins and Nick Pieschel will enable the Knights to pick up where they left off. And where they left off was a 2010 campaign in which they allowed just 1.43 sacks per game.

Defensive Back
CB - Josh Robinson - Jr. - 5-10/192 - 59 TKL, 2 INT, 13 BRUP
CB - Cornelius Whitehead - RFr. - 6-1/186 - Mount Dora High School

CB - A.J. Bouye - Jr. - 6-0/179 - 26 TKL, 1 INT, 7 BRUP
CB - Jordan Ozerities - So. - 5-10/191 - 15 TKL, 1 INT

FS - Kemal Ishmael - Jr. - 5-11/211 - 93 TKL, 2 INT, 5 BRUP
FS - Lyle Dankenbring - RJr. - 5-10/199 - 14 TKL, 1 BRUP

SS - Clayton Geathers - RFr. - 6-3/200 - 1 GP, 2 TKL, 1.0 TFL
SS - Jarrett Swaby - RSo. - 6-1/191 - Glades Day High School

Two of the top defensive backs in C-USA, and possibly even the country, are more than ready for their junior seasons. Free safety Kemal Ishmael was the last player to touch a football in 2010, knocking down a Hail Mary attempt in the endzone by Georgia's Aaron Murray for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl victory. He also capped off the year with a team-high 93 tackles.

The preseason attention, though, has made its way over to cornerback Josh Robinson. The native of Sunrise, Fla., grabbed a spot on four national watch lists, including the Thorpe Award (Top Defensive Back) and Bronko Nagurski Award (Top Defensive Player). Robinson has collected eight interceptions in two years, while he broke-up a staggering 13 passes in 2010.

And to replace Reggie Weams and Justin Boddie, UCF will look to redshirt freshman Clayton Geathers at strong safety and junior A.J. Bouye, who has seen time in 22 games with 36 tackles, at the other cornerback position.

OLB - Ray Shipman - RJr. - 6-5/237 - 1 GP
OLB - Terran Buck - Jr. - 6-2/227 - College of DuPage

MLB - Josh Linam - Sr. - 6-3/237 - 78 TKL, 9.0 TFL, 1 INT
MLB - Vinny Mazzurco - RSr. - 6-1/233 - 1 GP

OLB - Loren Robinson - RJr. - 6-3/219 - 8 TKL
OLB - Ray Cottman - Jr. - 6-2/227 - Glendale CC
OLB - Jonathan Davis - Jr. - 5-9/199 - 65 ATT, 234 YDS, 1 TD as a running back

An area that head coach George O'Leary has said he is "constantly looking at," the linebacker corps has a senior leader in Josh Linam in the middle as he had a breakout junior year with 78 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss. Linam will now be flanked by two relatively new faces due to the departure of Derrick Hallman, Lawrence Young and Chance Henderson.

A cousin of Godfrey, Ray Shipman is still adjusting to the gridiron. Following one year of football at Monsignor Pace High School and a pair of seasons with the University of Florida basketball team, he spent time at safety with UCF in 2010 and appeared in one game with the special teams.

On the other side of Linam lies a little more experience in Loren Robinson (10-career games) and Jonathan Davis, who served as a running back for UCF his first two years and was the Georgia Class 4A State Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

Defensive Line
LE - Toby Jackson - Jr. - 6-5/259 - Navarro College
LE - Joey Grant - Fr. - 6-4/252 - Lake Brantley High School

RE - Troy Davis - Jr. - 6-2/256 - 26 TKL, 8.0 TFL, 5.5 SACKS
RE - Quenton Brown - RFr. - 6-3/236 - Tucker High School (Georgia)

LT - Victor Gray - RSo. - 6-4/256 - 33 TKL, 7.0 TFL, 1.0 SACKS
LT - Barry Snider - Sr. - 6-3/268 - 10 GP, 1 BRUP

RT - E.J. Dunston - So. - 6-2/302 - 13 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 SACKS
RT - Jose Jose - So. - 6-3/371 - Eastern Arizona College

Victor Gray sits as the lone consistent starter on the D-line who returns for 2011. Defensive ends Bruce Miller and David Williams as well as right tackle Wes Tunuufi Sauvao were a bruising force, helping the Knights hold opponents to only nine rushing touchdowns, tying a UCF record. And Gray was right in the center of it all, starting 11 contests at left tackle, registering 7.0 tackles for loss.

Two Knights already have made statements with their game and will be called upon to step up even further. Troy Davis totaled 5.5 sacks in 2010, and had five more in UCF's Spring Game, while Darius Nall was an All-C-USA Second Team pick with 8.5 sacks off the bench. Also look for E.J. Dunston (three starts at right tackle) and junior-college transfers Toby Jackson and Jose Jose to see a lot of snaps as well.

PK - Nick Cattoi - Sr. - 6-5/224 - 11-for-19 FG, 47-for-50 PAT
PK - Jamie Boyle - Jr. - 5-10/190 - 0-for-2 FG, 9-for-9 PAT

P - David Bohner - RSr. - 6-0/179 - 8 ATT, 301 YDS, 37.6 AVG

SN - Charley Hughlett - Sr. - 6-4/245 - All-C-USA Second Team

H - Rob Calabrese - Sr. - 6-2/213

KR - Quincy McDuffie - Jr. - 5-10/175 - 27 RET, 869 YDS, 2 TD
KR - Khymest Williams - RSr. - 5-10/179 - 2 RET, 32 YDS, 0 TD

PR - Josh Robinson - Jr. - 5-10/192 - 20 RET, 304 YDS, 0 TD
PR - A.J. Guyton - RSr. - 5-11/198 - 8 RET, 88 YDS, 0 TD

Under Tim Salem's guidance, UCF ranked among the top-three overall special teams unit in the nation, ranking first in kickoff returns and 12th in punt returns. Both McDuffie and Robinson were tagged on the 2011 CFPA Watch Lists for their efforts during 2010. McDuffie already has 1,813 yards and three kick return touchdowns, while Robinson posted 304 yards on 20 attempts in his first season returning punts.

Nick Cattoi enters his final campaign and worked tirelessly to improve his leg strength during the offseason. His conversion of a field-goal try to tie Georgia before halftime of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl proved to be one of his most crucial makes of his career. And although Blake Clingan will no longer handle punting duties after carrying the workload from 2007-10, David Bohner was called upon during 2010, booting eight punts for a 37.6 average.


So what type of ride will 2011 provide? All that matters for O'Leary and the Knights is that it includes a magical celebration when the brakes on this ride force the UCF train to come to a halt in late December or early January.

Now that we have obliterated that elephant ear, it is time to get the popcorn ready for September.