Spring Position Preview: Secondary

ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – If there’s a defensive position group where head coach Josh Heupel and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon have to feel good about depth, it’s the Knights’ secondary.


UCF returns three of four starters and plenty of experience at the safety and cornerback positions.


On the back end, rising junior Richie Grant returns at safety. Grant was a First Team All-AAC selection last season. He led the team in total tackles last season with 109. Perhaps more impressive were his ball-hawking skills.


Grant ranked No. 1 in the AAC and No. 3 in the nation in interceptions with six. Unafraid to come up and lay the wood on a ball carrier, Grant also forced a team-high three fumbles. He was also ranked No. 33 in the nation in solo tackles with 5.3 per game.

Returning at cornerback are rising junior Brandon Moore and rising senior Nevelle Clarke.


Clarke led the team with 13 passes broken up, while turning in a pair of interceptions en route to First Team All-AAC honors. He explored the possibility of declaring for the NFL Draft, but opted to return to UCF. Moore was an Honorable Mention All-AAC choice. He broke up 10 passes, No. 2 on the team. His lone interception was memorable, returning it 93 yards for a touchdown against LSU in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.


Grant, Moore and Clarke each started all 13 games last season.


“That’s a good group for the back end,” Shannon said recently. “We’ve got a lot of guys returning, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football.”


The one major loss to the unit is Kyle Gibson, who started 11 games and played in all 13. Gibson was No. 3 on the team with 90 tackles, while also breaking up six passes and tallying one interception. Gibson played in all 39 games for the Knights over the past three seasons, so his experience will be missed.


First up looking to fill the void will likely by rising junior Antwan Collier. He saw action in all 13 games and recorded 36 tackles last season. He also recorded an interception in the 2018 season. Of course, Collier’s most famous interception came in 2018, but at the tail end of the 2017 season. His pick in the end zone secured UCF’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory over Auburn on Jan. 1, 2018.

2019 Returnees / 2018 Stats:
Nevelle Clarke (r-Sr.) / 46 tackles - 4.0 TFL - 2 INT - 13 PBU - 1 FR

Antwan Collier (Jr.) / 36 tackles - 2.5 TFL - 1 INT - 1 FR

Richie Grant (r-Jr.) / 109 tackles - 3.0 TFL - 6 INT - 3 FF - 1 FR

Jermaine McMillian (So.) / 10 tackles - 1 TFL - 1 PBU

Brandon Moore (r-Jr. / 43 tackles - 1.0 TFL - 1 INT - 10 PBU

Jon Powell (r-So.) / 10 tackles

Aaron Robinson (r-Jr.) / 9 tackles - 1 PBU

Palmer Bachelder (r-Fr.)

Elijah Benoit (r-So.)

Bryon Brown (r-Jr.)

Derek Gainous (So.)

Jonathan Gebka (r-Jr.)

Trey Green (r-Fr.)

Josh Kelly (r-So.)

Cade Larkin (r-Fr.)

Dyllon Lester (r-Fr.)

Rahsaan Lewis (So.)

Zamari Maxwell (r-So.)

Alex Swenson (r-So.)