AAC Preview: UCF

The 2013 UCF Knights surprised the American Athletic Conference’s fans and teams, as well as the nation finishing the season 12-1.  The season was the most successful in school history, with many of the team’s wins coming in dramatic form, by way of six second half comebacks and four games coming down to the last five minutes. The Knights capped their surprising season with a BCS bowl win against Big 12 champion Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Much of the 2013 season can be credited to a well recruited senior led team put together by head coach George O-Leary. With 10 returning starters coming back to defense the knights aim to make another BCS run this coming fall.

Much of last years success for the Knights can be credited to the play of quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson. The offense averaged just shy of 35 points a game while averaging 441 yards a game. In 2014 Coach O’Leary looks to replace the very talented backfield with sophomore QB Justin Holman and sophomore running back William Stanback. O’Leary will have to make a decision on whether or not to play the highly coveted 4 star recruit Tyler Harris, who joined the team this spring. Harris will likely be the QB of the future for the Knights, but with much of the Knights offensive line graduating, the knights may lean toward the more mobile sophomore QB Justin Holman.

UCF’s staff also needs to make a decision on their RB replacement. Running back William Stanback from Hempstead, NY has already proven he can carry the load for the Knights. As a true freshman Stanback was second team all AAC and honorable mention for the conference’s all freshman team. Stanback had 443 yards rushing on only 105 attempts and 6 touchdowns. Stanback also contributed with 15 catches out of the backfield for 186 yards and a touchdown. The running back from Hempstead even contributed to the team on special teams, adding 11 kickoff returns for 218 yards as well as 9 tackles and a forced fumble.

Heading into 2014, the season looks to be promising for the Knights with many key returners coming back. The first two games will be a sure testament to the Knights and where they stand against college football’s powerhouse programs. Opening up the season with a home game against Penn State then having to travel to SEC territory for Missouri will make a challenging first two games. If there are no major injuries to the team’s starters then look for UCF to potentially repeat.