UCF Knights Football: 2015 Season Preview and Prediction


George O’Leary has turned UCF into a consistent winner so what should we expect from his Knights after going 9-4 last year?

The UCF Knights had nowhere to go but down in 2014 after quarterback Blake Bortles left for the NFL Draft after leading the team to a win in the Fiesta Bowl, top 10 ranking and a 12-1 record, but George O’Leary’s team still managed to go 9-4 last year.

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Offensive Outlook

O’Leary’s biggest question facing his team last year was replacing Bortles — the No. 3 pick in the Draft — and after some early growing pains Justin Holman grew in the position and finished the season with nine wins in his last 11 games. Holman has to improve his 56.9 completion percentage and limit his turnovers this year but should be able to do that in his second year in the system and a 3,500-yard season with 26-30 touchdowns is within reach.

Running back William Stanback returns after rushing for 697 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing three games and being hampered in others due to nagging injuries. A healthy Stanback should rush for 1,000 yards running behind a veteran offensive line anchored by center Joey Grant who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Holman’s top targets are all gone, including 1,000-yard receiver Breshad Perriman who was the first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the draft. His top returning receiver is Jordan Atkins who had 12 catches for 135 yards in his first season after playing minor league baseball. Incoming four-star recruit Tristan Payton may be pressed into a big role out of necessity but he could prove to be a difference-maker.

Defensive Outlook

The strength of last year’s team was the defense that finished the season fifth in the nation in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, but loses seven starters. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan has to find a way to replace 2014 co-AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Jacoby Glenn, who declared for the Draft.

Glenn is one of four starters from the secondary who must be replaced this year, but there is depth on the roster in the form of juniors Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Killings who will step into starting roles and leadership roles for former top recruits, Kyle Gibson and Chris Williams.

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Much like the secondary, the linebacker unit is reloading as well with leading tackler Terrance Plummer and Troy Gray gone after making 97 and 65 tackles, respectively. Plummer also led the team with 13 tackles for loss, so Chequan Burkett and Errol Clarke will be the top performers. Look for Domenic Spencer to get a chance to earn playing time as a senior.

Helping to make life easier for the back seven is the defensive line that is anchored by Thomas Niles who had a team-high 7.5 sacks last year and had 12 tackles for loss. He added 11 hurries, two forced fumbles and even blocked a blocked kick. Along with Miles Pace, Demetris Anderson, Lance McDowdell and Jamiyus Pittman form a pretty strong defensive line that will have to be dominant as the back seven gels at the beginning of the season.

Special Teams Outlook

Everyone from the kicking game is gone with senior kicker Shawn Moffitt leaving as the school’s scoring leader among kickers with 298 career points. But also gone is kickoff specialist Sean Galvin and Moffitt’s backup, Rodrigo Quirarte is gone. With tough tests against Stanford and South Carolina early in the season, failing to have a trustworthy option when you get inside the 30 could cost the Knights points they can’t afford to give up.


O’Leary is one of the better coaches in the country and has led UCF to 31 wins in the last three seasons, including a 15-1 record in the two years they’ve been in the AAC, but winning at that rate this year will be a major victory. With only 10 starters returning to the team and an entirely new kicking game it will be tough to win more than nine games this year. Recruiting has fared well in the last two years so the talent is there but the experience isn’t and that likely costs them games against Stanford, South Carolina and 1-3 conference games.

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