4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE UCF DEFENSE
– The defense doesn’t get enough credit or love considering the offense gets all of the attention, but it was solid. The Knights finished 95th in the nation overall, but it only allowed 23 points per game and was strong in the secondary. The run defense, though, was another story, and now with five starters overall needing to be replaced …
– The defensive line has to undergo an overhaul with Titus Davis gone from the end, and AJ Wooten, Joey Connors, and Trysten Hill done. This is where grad transfers Cam Goode from Virginia Tech and Brandon Wilson step in to at least provide a little bit of bulk around sophomore Mason Cholewa and – if he plays inside and not at end – senior Brendon Hayes. The whole group has to be better against the run, but it’s a big group across the front four.
– Four of the top six tacklers are gone overall, but second-leading tackler Nate Evans is back after earning all-star honors with 99 tackles from his spot on the outside, and senior Shawn Burgess-Becker needs to rise up at the other spot. Sophomore Eriq Gilyard – who made 38 tackles – will get the first look to replace Pat Jasinski in the middle.
– Richie Grant is a pickoff machine at one safety job. He came up with six of the team’s 14 from his free safety spot, and he led the team with 109 tackles. Kyle Gibson is gone at the other safety job, but junior Antwan Collier is a veteran, and both corners are back – Nevelle Clarke and Brandon Moore will be All-AAC performers.