2013 UCF Spring Game

If RB Storm Johnson is seeing the majority of the snaps this season, it's probably a good sign for UCF. (Joshua C. Cruey / Orlando Sentinel / April 13, 2013)

Over the last week and a half, we’ve previewed UCF’s position group as the start of camp closes in. You can see those previews here:

July 8: Offensive line

July 9: Defensive line

July 10: Running backs

July 11: Defensive backs

July 12: Wide receivers

July 15: Linebackers

July 16: Quarterbacks

Now we’ll take a look at five somewhat-under-the-radar storylines that could have a big impact on UCF’s success on the field in 2013. In no particular order, here are some things to keep an eye on…

  1. Development of a punter – This flared up as a potential issue during the spring season, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out this summer and fall. With Jamie Boyle moving on, UCF has an open battle at the position, but no one punted consistently and successfully enough to grab a hold of the job in the spring. Redshirt freshman Caleb Houston was the only player listed as a punter on the roster, but Sean Galvin took some reps there as well and it will be an open competition at the position going into camp. With a defense that has question marks right now, field position will be important. That makes this a storyline worth watching.

  2. Emergence of freshmen on defense – It doesn’t happen often that true freshmen can work themselves onto the field, but if there is a year it could go down it might be this one. There are as many as six true freshmen that might have a legitimate shot at playing significant downs this season: CB D.J. Killings, CB Shaquill Griffin, S Shaquem Griffin, LB Chequan Burkett, LB Justin McDonald and LB Jake Berman. Is it likely they play significant minutes? No. But with a number of redshirt freshmen and sophomores ahead of them on the depth chart, it’s not unreasonable to predict that one or two sneaks his way into the rotation. If any of these players can be pleasant surprises for UCF, it would be welcome relief this fall.

  3. Consistency on the offensive line – UCF will enter the season with a good idea of what its offensive line will be: Torrian Wilson, Justin McCray, Joey Grant, Jordan McCray and Chris Martin. There could be two things that throw that into flux. First, Grant needs to continue to progress at a rapid rate at center. It’s easy to mask some deficiencies there, especially with two solid guards on either side, but Tarik Cook will push him for the starting spot come summer. In addition, if Martin falters at right tackle and coach Brent Key decides to shake things up, you could see Jo. McCray pop back out to tackle, and possibly see Cook or another player slot in at right guard. UCF prefers consistency here, but it will be worth watching throughout the season.

  4. Pass/run ratio – There has been plenty of speculation about how different the offense might look from this season to last. My argument is that it won’t be overwhelming to the eye of the average fan. But the options in routes that UCF runs with its talented wide receiving corps will change, and the play calls and audible options might also vary more to trust QB Blake Bortles in his second season as a starter. Will UCF throw the ball in a Marshall-like hurry-up spread? No way. Should they? I don’t think that’d be smart, either. What will be worth watching is how much more Bortles is trusted to make the big throw to open up the game, and I think it will be at a higher clip than 2012.

  5. Rotation at running back – One thing I’m intrigued to see is how much UCF coaches will lean on Storm Johnson throughout the year. Later last season, coaches put the ball in the hands of Latavius Murray and let him lead the way. The early-season rotations we saw when he was out and when he was working back into the lineup had faded away. With Murray gone this season, Johnson will be the starter. It will be interesting to see how much Cedric Thompson gets involved in the gameplan, however, and whether any other backs, freshmen Micah Reed and Will Stanback perhaps, get some reps as well. If Storm is in the featured role, it’s probably a good sign for UCF.

What are some other storylines you will be watching come the start of practice at the end of the month?


E-mail Paul Tenorio at ptenorio@orlandosentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @OSKnights.