That’s how many days it’s been since the last meaningful football game, Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, in which Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints topped Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts. Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? Since then, time has crawled at a ridiculous and meaningless pace, like a turtle in the Boston Marathon. Sure, there are other sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, and hockey that took place during the offseason, but none of them have the dynamic ability to enthrall an entire nation of sports enthusiasts week in and week out.
Now, we stand only a week and a half away from the start of the long-awaited 2010-11 season. That’s right, sports fans! It’s time to wake up from your annual summer hibernation of boredom! It’s FOOTBALL season!
For UCF fans, this season comes with some of the highest expectations in school history. After years of successful recruiting and development, the Knights return 18 seniors from a team that went 8-4 a year ago followed by a disappointing loss in the St. Petersburg Bowl against Rutgers. UCF’s schedule this year is rather favorable compared to years past and has the Knights in a position to have a special season.
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Of course, as always with UCF football, there are still many question marks heading into the first game at Brighthouse Networks Stadium against South Dakota State on September 4th. As has become a custom at UCF, there is yet another quarterback controversy surrounding the Knights. The starter heading into preseason camp was junior, Rob Calabrese. Remember him? The same Calabrese that started his freshman and sophomore year, only to be replaced by other quarterbacks that didn’t get their panties in a knot while on the field. Sure, Calabrese has more experience and is supposedly more prepared to handle his mistakes, but his past certainly still lingers in the minds of all Knights fans.
Sitting right behind him, the heralded true freshmen, Jeffrey Godfrey, out of Miami Central High School. In case you haven’t heard of him – which if you haven’t, you aren’t a true UCF Knights fan – he holds the record for most career passing yards in Miami-Dade county history. His 7,251-career passing yards completely crushed Jacory Harris’ previous 6,365 yards. Not to mention, much like Harris, Godfrey is also extremely fast and has the athletic ability to create plays with his legs. Last I checked, Jacory Harris is a junior at the University of Miami, has his team ranked 13th going into the 2010 season AND is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate this year.
So we know the high expectations surrounding Godfrey going into this season and the disappointing memories of Calabrese still lingering from past years, but can’t we view these two as a pair of QB’s rather than individually?
Follow me down memory lane for a moment. In 2006, just up the road in Gainesville, veteran quarterback, Chris Leak, took a back seat in the media to incoming freshmen, Tim Tebow. Florida Gators head coach, Urban Meyer, recognized the dynamic abilities of the young Tebow but still only used him sparingly in certain situations. The two quarterbacks became a pair of incredibly successful quarterbacks on a team that eventually won the National Championship. At the end of the year, Tebow became the man and eventually won another national title, a Heisman Trophy, and is viewed by some as the best college football player ever.
Now, in no way am I comparing Jeffrey Godfrey to Tim Tebow, because they are completely different quarterbacks with completely different body-types and abilities. However, the way that Urban Meyer handled the Leak/Tebow situation is something that UCF head coach, George O’Leary, should consider. Using Calabrese as the starter, which he ultimately will be, and inserting Godfrey in certain situations, could be the key to success for the Knights. Both quarterbacks have something to bring to the table and their individual talents will continue to confuse the defense.
O’Leary has said he will wait till game day to announce the starter. Who honestly believes that? We all know he’s going to go with experience of Calabrese over the youth of Godfrey! Then again, if Rob Calabrese fails to hit receivers on basic crossing routes each game like he did all of the past two years, don’t be surprised if O’Leary yanks him REAL quick…especially after hearing the obnoxious boo’s from the Knights faithful.
Speaking of receivers, the Knights have an incredibly talented group of wide receivers this season. This may be the best group of wide-outs since Brandon Marshall and Mike Walker – both of which are now in the NFL’s Top-20 for 2010 Fantasy Wide Receivers, according to ESPN. Kamar Aiken leads this year’s UCF receiving corps, joined by A.J. Guyton, Jamar Newsome, and Brian Watters. These guys worked extremely hard in the offseason to make sure they catch the ball and actually hold on to it, which was a big issue last season. Also, be on the lookout for Quincy McDuffie, who could have a breakout year.
The Knights’ running backs continue to impress coaches in camp. The starter, Brynn Harvey, is out until mid-September with a knee injury he suffered in spring practice. The backups, however, are ready and willing to fill the void left by Harvey. Jonathan Davis, who has made significant advancements in camp, will be the temporary starter, followed by Iowa transfer Jeff Brinson and sophomore Brendan Kelly.
All opposing offenses beware! The Knights defense is just nasty. They are led by the 2009 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, DE Bruce Miller. Miller already has the most career sacks (27) and tackles for loss (44) for any FBS player. UCF boasts a veteran group of linebackers and a young, but extremely talented secondary. Sophomore cornerback, Josh Robinson, has already caught national attention with an All-American award in his freshman year. Their biggest hole is replacing NFL defensive tackle, Terrell Troup, but they should be able to manage with redshirt senior, Wes Tunuufi Sauvao and freshman E.J. Dunston.
ESPN’s prediction for UCF this season, based on EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2011, has the Knights going 11-1. SWEET! I know, I know, it’s just a video game…but it’s still cool to think about. A more realistic record for the Knights would be 10-2 or 9-3. The two BCS non-conference games against NC State and Kansas State have UCF fans nervous, even though both of those programs are down this year. Of course, NC State is a home game on September 11th, so that is at least a positive for the Knights. A trap game to watch out for is week 3 at Buffalo. Sure, it’s a MAC school with a new coach, but with a big-name school like K-State coming up the following week, UCF must stay focused on Buffalo and not look ahead.
As for the conference schedule, the Knights have a much easier path than previous years to win the East, and are projected to do so. UCF gets rivals East Carolina and Southern Miss at home, with both schools having somewhat of a rebuilding year. Marshall is a scary game because its in Huntington, West Virginia, and they absolutely hate the Knights, considering UCF their biggest rival even though they have yet to beat them in C-USA play. A game that most people have overlooked is a road contest against Houston. UCF beat Houston last year when the Cougars were ranked in the Top-25. Now, Houston gets UCF at home with basically the same offense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate, QB Case Keenum. Here’s the deal, the Knights could possibly be ranked themselves heading into that game. Anyone believe that Houston is not going to want to return the favor? As far as I’m concerned, Houston has already circled that game and want revenge. Not only that, but that matchup could be a preview to the C-USA championship game.
Which brings me to my last question. If UCF somehow manages to be ranked in the Top-25 for the first time in school history (Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!!), is that enough for Knights fans? Which is more important, a Top-25 ranking or a victory in a bowl game? Doing both would obviously be a huge accomplishment and will do great things for recruiting. But as a UCF fan, which is the bigger deal? I want to hear your thoughts! Post on the article or on the Facebook fan page for KnightNews.
It’s time, Knights fans! The 2010-2011 UCF football season is only 10 days away! Come out to the games, tailgate, bounce around to Zombie Nation, and cheer on the Knights to their best season in school history…HOPEFULLY! It’s your school, so support it! I’ll be on the sidelines covering the game, so feel free to say hey when you see me! This could be the year that puts UCF on the national map!