Mid-Term Report: Grading The UCF Knights

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Mid-Term Report: Grading The UCF Knights
(Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Offense: C

Pass: Two games into the season, Brett Hodges was named UCF's permanent starting quarterback. Since that time, UCF's total offensive numbers have improved, including averaging over 319 yards of total offense a game. Take out a five turnover game by Hodges on the road against ECU, and the Knights have only turned the ball over two times since he took over at quarterback. A.J. Guyton has also been impressive in the passing game, catching 15 balls for 194 yards on the season, including a 119-yard game against ECU.

UCF’s running game begins and ends with Brynn Harvey. Hands down, he has been the biggest bright spot for the Knights in 2009. To date, Harvey has rushed for 558 yards and six touchdowns through five games, which includes a 219-yard, 42-carry performance against Memphis last Saturday. If he continues his current track, Harvey will have over 1,200 yards and around 13 touchdowns to show for 2009.

Defense: B+

Getting to the quarterback has been an area for success for UCF early in the season, with the Knights being tied at No. 23 in the nation in sacks at 11.0. Miller and Geathers are tied for the team lead in that department with 4.5 each. In total, the Knights have the third best total defense in Conference USA and have the second best scoring defense, surrendering just 20 points a game this season.

The Knights are tops in Conference USA in rushing defense, allowing just 94.4 yards per game. The Knights have given up an astonishing 2.8 yards per carry per rush and have gotten to the running backs in the backfield, with Bruce Miller, Jarvis Geathers and Lawrence Young combining for 18 tackles for loss so far this season. The team also has the best red zone scoring defense, allowing a score just over 70 percent of the time.

Special Teams: B+

Kicking: Last in point after percentage and eighth in C-USA in field goal percentage, the Knights kicking game has been nothing short of a disaster this season. Head coach George O’Leary has rotated between freshman kicker Jamie Boyle and Nick Cattoi in search of a consistent kicker. Cattoi seems to be the guy in line to fill that role after nailing a school-record four kicks against Memphis.

Quincy McDuffie, Jamar Newsome and Darin Baldwin have led a return game that is ranked well nationally. The Knights are ranked No. 14 nationally in kickoff yards with 560 and No. 10 nationally in kickoff return average. UCF has also done well defensively on special teams, ranking No. 2 nationally in punt return defense, allowing just -2 punt return yards this season.

Overall Grade: B

All in all, the 2009 Knights are better than the 2008 version. They are solid defensively and are beginning to get a groove on offense. Hodges has been getting more efficient by each performance and will need to avoid turning the ball over to keep winning games. UCF will face some big tests against Miami, Houston and Texas down the stretch of the season, but if the Knights can continue to improve on offense, stay strong defensively and dominate in special teams, there is no reason this team shouldn’t make a bowl appearance.

Listen to Ryan's radio show, The Sports Report with Ryan Bass, every Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. on WKNT radio. Check out the home of the site: www.thesportsreportonline.com.

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