CROSS YOUR FINGERS: Keys to the season
Development of secondary: The Knights need a young secondary to play at a high level to give their talented offense every chance at success. The play at cornerback is especially significant as UCF will lean mostly on freshmen.
Success of Storm Johnson: The Knights expect QB Blake Bortles to shine, but Johnson’s ability to grind out yards is crucial in UCF’s offense. With Latavius Murray gone, Johnson must be able to carry the load and be trusted not to put the ball on the ground.
Torrian Wilson plays at elite level: The left tackle will face some of the game’s elite pass rushers this season and needs to step up to keep Bortles protected and the offense running smoothly.
JUST YOUR LUCK: Bet You Didn't Know
1. Breshad Perriman is a star: The son of former NFL receiver Brett Perriman, the rising sophomore showed plenty of potential last season, but is ready to breakout this fall. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound receiver will be the Knights go-to threat.
2. Blake Bortles wasn’t highly recruited: Considered perhaps the best college passer in the state of Florida, Bortles didn’t have many offers coming out of high school. In fact, Tulane wanted to bring him in as a tight end. Now, Bortles could be set for an elite season.
3. UCF will be better up front: Despite the loss of Troy Davis and Victor Gray, the Knights will be improved up front with DT Demetris Anderson and the pass rushing ability of Thomas Niles and Deion Green.
THE LUCKY ONES: Players to watch this season
The Buzz: After being a game-manager last year, Bortles will shoot down field more and take bigger risks as a second-year starter. His arm could carry with it the weight of the Knights’ season. Bortles is the first UCF quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards since Ryan Schneider in 2002.
“He’s a 6-5, 235-pound athlete who can throw it,” UCF coach George O’Leary said of Bortles. “. . . He doesn’t panic and he has the one ingredient that you really can’t coach and that’s he can take a bad play and make a good play out of it.”
Position: Running back
The Buzz: Played a supplementary role last season, but now it’s his time to be the featured back. Must show willingness to grind out tough yards and marry that with his big-play potential.
Position: Offensive tackle
The Buzz: Perhaps no player faces as big a challenge this season, with top NFL prospects Jadeveon Clowney and Aaron Lynch on the schedule. Wilson must prove his mettle in those games.
The Buzz: The leader of the defense, Plummer must control the front seven and be a stout run stopper. The middle linebacker may be asked to be more active than any other player.
Position: Defensive tackle
The Buzz: Depth on defensive line could be an issue, but Anderson’s size and athleticism bring a whole new dimension to the Knights’ defense. His ability inside changes the entire line.