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Central Florida Preview
by Matt Fargo - 08/22/2008
No. 78 Central Florida Knights
2007 Record ~ 10-4 SU ~ 8-6 ATS
Starters Returning ~ Offense (5) Defense ()
The Knights are no longer Golden and not only because they took it out of their nickname. National rushing leader Kevin Smith decided to bypass his senior season while incumbent Philip Smith was dismissed from the program. That is a big blow to a team that was already in a tough state following the death of freshman receiver Ereck Plancher. Head coach George Oâ€™Leary was 0-11 his first season and four yearâ€™s later, turned the Knights into conference champions. This might be his toughest challenge yet.
Not only are the Knights without the backfield Smith duo, but a replacement needs to be found at quarterback. Kyle Isreal was not a superstar by any stretch but he was efficient enough to lead the offense that ranked first in the country in turnover margin. Junior Mike Greco is the likely starter as he has the only experience on the roster. Both starting receivers return which will soften the blow but three starters on the offensive line that paved the way for Smith need to be replaced as well.
While the offense was the story last season, it will be up to the defense to become the catalyst for Central Florida. The unit finished a very respectable 49th in total defense last season and it led the nation in interceptions with 24. The entire secondary returns as does the entire linebacking crew led by junior Chance Henderson. Half of the front four are returning and the defense that finished 39th against the run may take a hit. Until the offense comes around, the defense will have to carry the load for a while.
The schedule doesnâ€™t set up very well for the Knights. They get a creampuff in South Carolina St. to open the season but then a tough South Florida team comes to visit. Then the real fun starts. Four of the next five games are on the road including games at Boston College, Miami and Tulsa. The final five games consist of two wins over Marshall and UAB but three tossups against East Carolina, Southern Miss and Memphis. The Knights are capable for a big year but also the opposite so there are just too many questions.