UCF Football Opponent Preview - UAB

GO KNIGHTS UCF running back Brynn Harvey (34) runs in for a touchdown in the first quarter at UAB on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
UCF running back Brynn Harvey (34) runs in for a touchdown in the first quarter at UAB on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Aug. 12, 2012

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By Mike Garabedian

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF football team will conclude its regular-season slate as well as its final Conference USA schedule when UAB travels to Bright House Networks Stadium on Nov. 24. Last year, the Blazers squeaked past the Knights with a 26-24 victory.

UAB finished last season on a high note by winning two of its final three games and ending C-USA champion Southern Miss' eight-game winning streak, with a 34-31 thriller on a Thursday night. That was the second-ever victory for UAB over a ranked opponent and it should help carry some momentum into the 2012 season.

The team will be entering the season with an entirely new coaching staff, including first year head coach Garrick McGee. The former Arkansas offensive coordinator hopes to instill the same offense that led his Razorbacks to the Sugar Bowl in 2010 and led the SEC in total offense (438.1 ypg) in 2011.

McGee will have his hands full after losing four starters on the offensive line and secondary due to graduation. Although this year has been deemed a rebuilding year for the first year head coach and his staff, McGee intends to compete with young talent at the skill positions and JUCO transfers. The Blazers return their quarterback, two leading rushers and two of their top three receivers.

Offensive Player to Watch
With four starting offensive linemen graduating, quarterback Jonathan Perry will have a tough time trying to evade pass rushers all season long. This year's player to watch for UAB was 174-for-300 with 2,042 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also carried the ball for another 294 yards and three touchdowns. He won't be alone at the skill position, as all but one of his wideouts from a year ago return with valuable experience under their belts. Greg Franklin and Darrin Reaves should also take pressure off Perry, with both averaging at least 4.7 yards per carry a year ago. Although the returning skill players are huge, this year's biggest addition for the Baltimore, Md., native has to be head coach Garrick McGee. The former offensive coordinator brings his passing attack to Birmingham, hoping to improve the young quarterback in all facets of his game.

Defensive Player to Watch
Although the defense struggled in 2011, there is some hope for this year's unit as a lot of young players will be given the chance to step up and make a difference. Senior linebacker Marvin Burdette has started all 24 games for the Blazers the past two seasons, contributing 249 tackles in his career, 11th all-time at UAB. The Batesville, Miss., native will be a huge voice this year, leading a young but athletic group hoping to make a name for themselves. In 2011, Burdette finished second on the team in tackles with 92, recording 4.5 tackles for loss with a sack and interception. At 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, Burdette has all the tools and skills to play on Sundays. He is hoping for another big year like his sophomore year, in which he was ranked in the top five in C-USA in tackles to propel him to the next level.

Knights' vs. Blazers' Matchup to Look Out For
With four starting offensive linemen and defensive backs graduating for UAB, the most important matchup could easily be UCF's ability to put pressure on quarterback Jonathan Perry or the Knights receivers' ability to create separation. However, the one that might be the most exciting has to be between the UAB wide receivers versus the UCF secondary. With McGee taking the reins at UAB, the Blazers will feature a highly explosive offense, with a deadly aerial attack. Junior QB Jonathan Perry will be throwing to a plethora of young receivers who all have valuable game experience in Jackie Williams, Patrick Hearn, Jamarcus Nelson and Greg Franklin. As a sophomore, Williams had 58 receptions for 607 yards. The speedy Nelson was a home-run threat anytime he caught the ball with four touchdowns and an average just over 21 yards per catch. A.J. Bouye and Brandon Alexander will have their hands full with this group, as McGee has been known for getting the best out of his pass catchers. Nevertheless, UCF's strong point will be its duo at safety with Kemal Ishmael and Clayton Geathers returning from a year in which they started every game and combined for 148 tackles. If the UCF defensive backs can step up and provide shut-down coverage, the end result will be different from a year ago.



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