With UCF starting linebacker Wille Mitchell suspended indefinitely, the Knights will count on true freshman Chequan Burkett to step up in the lineup.

UCF was concerned Auburn would swoop in with a late offer to steal the Montgomery (Ala.) Carver High product. The Tigers didn’t, and the Knights benefited.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Burkett impressed coaches with his size and strength as soon as he enrolled, and coaches say he has been a quick study. Burkett got the first start of his collegiate career at Penn State, totaling one tackle. He has six tackles on the season, including four solo stops, with one tackle for loss.

Burkett is aided by playing next to veteran middle linebacker Terrance Plummer, who leads the team with 28 tackles.

UCF coach George O’Leary said he has no concerns about inserting a true freshman into the starting lineup -- even with his first two starts coming against BCS programs Penn State and South Carolina.

“Once you play you’re no longer a freshman,” O’Leary said. “You’ve got to get better each game and we understand strengths and weaknesses and we’ll just continue playing the way we’ve been playing.”


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