ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – McKenzie Milton, Darriel Mack Jr., Greg McCrae, Adrian Killins … they will all tell you any success they have running or throwing the ball is because it “all starts up front.”
The Knights have enjoyed one of the most prolific offenses in the nation the last two years. If they plan to maintain that reputation, they will need to maintain a high level of play on the offensive line. Going into 2019, UCF will have two experienced seniors and a returning Freshman All-America selection returning to anchor that important position group.
Perhaps the most important position on the offensive line, center, will be held down for the third straight season by Jordan Johnson. Johnson has played in every game during his Knight career, and has started all but one. He was a First Team All-AAC selection last season.
Jake Brown, who started all 13 games last season at right tackle returns as well. Brown has shown plenty of versatility during his UCF career. He started 12 contests in 2017 as a sophomore at the guard position. He held down the left tackle spot in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl when Aaron Evans missed the game due to back surgery. He started every game at right tackle last season, earning First Team All-AAC honors.
Cole Schneider was named a Freshman All-America performer by USA Today after the 2018 season. Schneider has also shown a great deal of versatility. He started 12 games last year, nine at right guard and three on the left side. He played in all 13 games.
"I am (comfortable) man," offensive line coach Glen Elarbee said of his returning nucleus. "The thing right now is we absolutely have to figure out the left tackle spot and we have to figure out depth."
The Knights should get a boost on the line from the full-time return of Samuel Jackson. The rising sophomore played in all 13 games during the National Championship season of 2017 and saw a great deal of action. He suffered a knee injury during spring ball in 2018, but was able to come back and see action in four games late in the 2018 season. With the new redshirt rule, last year’s four contests won’t cost Jackson a year of eligibility and he’ll be a very experienced sophomore in 2019.
Rising seniors Trevor Elbert and Josh McMullen will be among a group looking to increase playing time and even grab a starting role in 2019. Elbert and McMullen each saw action in all 13 games, both as backups at the tackle spot and also on special teams. Rising junior Parker Boudreuax could also be in the mix at guard. He saw action in 12 of 13 games last season.
"We always try to attack," Elarbee said of spring practice. "That means just going as hard as you can."
The Knights aren’t attacking with a lack of size up front. Of the 15 offensive linemen on the spring roster, UCF averages 305 pounds.
The UCF offense was No. 5 in the nation in total offense last season and No. 6 in scoring offense. If the Knights plan to keep lighting up the scoreboard, these are the guys who don’t get the glory, but who do the dirty work to make it happen.