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November 1, 2013
Midseason Highlight Video/Report Card
UCF is in a great position as they enter the final stretch of the regular season.
The 6-1 Knights are ranked in the top 20 and sit in the driver's seat to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship and play in a BCS bowl. With key victories at places like Louisville and Penn State, 2013 is shaping up to be the Knights' most memorable year on record.
Chris Holland, better known as "Brahman Knight" on the message boards, edited this midseason highlight reel and grades the individual positions.
Junior Blake Bortles has been the key to the season for the Knights, looking every bit the part of a starting quarterback of a top 20 team, only taking a step back during the South Carolina loss. Leading a game-tying drive at Memphis and game-winning drive at Louisville proved his confidence is back where it needs to be. Having tossed the ball around for 1,870 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes, there is no reason to expect any declines going forward.
After Tyler Gabbert suddenly left the team before the FIU game, Justin Holman took the reins as backup quarterback, seeing most of his action against FIU and UConn. He has struggled at moments as a true freshman normally does. Holman did look more confident at the end of the UConn game, slinging his first touchdown to Jeff Godfrey.
Storm Johnson has become one of the best running backs in the nation this year, pounding out 592 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground on top of his 19 receptions and three scores. That all adds up to the sixth best player nationally in touchdowns scored. Johnson has hit his inside running lanes harder this year than last year, setting up his long outside runs. The surprise has been true freshman William Stanback taking a firm hold on the number two running back slot with key runs at Penn State, Memphis and Louisville, racking up to 242 yards and three touchdowns. Cedric Thompson, Micah Reed, and Dontravious Wilson have kept busy on special teams.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The strongest offensive unit going into the season has hit some bumps in the road, but not enough to displace them as the top position group. Breshad Perriman, the big play man, is leading the wideouts in receiving yardage with 507 yards and a team high 23 yards per catch average. Rannell Hall clocks in with the most receptions at 28 to go along with his 437 yards and three scores. Jeff Godfrey and J.J. Worton both have four touchdowns from the slot wide receiver position. Josh Reese is the utility man, filling in for any wideout spot, and has proved to come up in clutch situations this year at Penn State and Louisville. Tight end Justin Tukes probably gets fewer passes due to how deep the wide receiver position is, only hauling in 10 receptions to date, but has played an important role in pass blocking against South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney (helping yield zero sacks to Clowney). All have been active blocking downfield in every game, turning some five-yard plays into 15-yard gains.
Offensive tackle Chris Martin, along with cornerback Jordan Ozerities, is playing up to his potential this season, and doing a very good job. The McCray twins are performing as expected at the guard spots, Torrian Wilson is playing at an All-Conference level at left tackle, and Joey Grant isn't far behind. Tarik Cook is playing well at backup center and guard. The unit as a whole allowed five sacks in the first two games of the season, but only three since (with zero in the last two games).
E.J. Dunston and Demetris Anderson have held down the starting defensive tackle spots most of the year, with Jaryl Mamea stepping in over the past few games in place of Dunston. The tackles have been up and down, pushing the pocket but rarely getting off of their blocks. Defensive end has been a bit of a revolving door. Deion Green was having an average year until tearing his ACL at Louisville, allowing Miles Pace to step in for his second start of the year, and held fort against UConn. True freshman Blake Keller was coming along, registering two sacks in Memphis before abruptly quitting the team. Thomas Niles has been a steady performer, but with only one sack. Run defense has been average, and the pass rush non-existent for long stretches. With only one senior in regular rotation, there is hope for improvement in the last five games of the regular season.
Terrance Plummer has been the rock of the entire defense, leading the team with 60 tackles with seven in the back field and two juggling interceptions at Memphis. The American Athletic Conference has taken note, awarding the middle linebacker Defensive Player of the Week honors twice in seven weeks. OLB Troy Gray has continued his solid play, this time as a starter in every game, with 35 tackles and two interceptions as well. The other outside linebacker has been a carousel of players. Willie Mitchell played steady for the first two games before being suspended indefinitely. Chequan Burkett started in Mitchell's place before being sidelined due to injury. The lack of bodies has resulted in playing with two linebackers on the field for the majority of the games since September, and likely will continue with the spread passing attacks of Houston, SMU, and Temple approaching on the schedule.
What could have been the shakiest defensive unit going into the season has turned out to be the strength. As expected, strong safety Clayton Geathers has led the defensive backs, amassing 48 tackles, five pass break ups and five passes defended (second on the team in all three categories), and a key forced fumble that turned momentum in Louisville. Brandon Alexander has moved seamlessly to free safety from cornerback with 32 stops and three TFLs. Jordan Ozerities and Jacoby Glenn have stepped up the most. Ozerities is playing to his full potential in his junior year and Glenn has ably filled in for the departed A.J. Bouye, making his presence in not being noticed, true to a good cornerback. Sean Maag has been a force at nickle back, playing a role in a team-high five defensive turnovers.
Shawn Moffitt has yet to miss a kick this year (9-9 on field goals, 32-32 on PATs), Sean Galvin is getting touchbacks on a tremendous 45 percent of his kickoffs (up from 37 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2011), and Caleb Houston has a 43.7 yards per punt average. The kicking game has exceeded every expectation going into the season.
The return teams have yet to make a big kick or punt return, but haven't allowed one to the opposition, either.