Each week during the football season, a few staff contributors will answer five questions regarding the upcoming game ahead. It’s a way to get the staff to come together as well as the rest of Knights Nation, to see if they agree or disagree with the crew at BGB.
In our first roundtable of the football season, Derek Warden, Luke Sarris, Eric Lopez, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions about tomorrow’s season opener against Florida A&M.
1. Which offensive player are you most excited to see this season?
Derek Warden: Otis Anderson, Jr. I think that after spending last year having to learn a new position (WR), in addition to his regular RB, he will put it all together and become our total yards leader on offense (receiving + rushing)
Luke Sarris: Brandon Wimbush simply because I think he has the biggest shoes to fill without any certainty on how he’ll play.
Eric Lopez: AK. I am excited to see if Adrian is used more and perhaps get to 1,000 yards on ground 500+ in receiving and be used on return game
Jeff Sharon: Definitely Dillon Gabriel. We’ll see some of him against FAMU and I’m guessing a bit more as a change-of-pace in no more than four games total this year, given the redshirt rules. He is Josh Heupel’s prized QB recruit and I cannot wait to see him sling the rock all over the place. Heupel’s vertical passing game suits him very well and we might be in line for a fireworks show when he gets in there.
Jeremy Brener: I want to see if Greg McCrae can duplicate what he did last season. McCrae came out of nowhere with his 1200 rushing yards and he’s just so electric. All of the running backs are, but McCrae holds a soft spot because he is the least assuming. He’s an underdog, and I like that quality about him.
Brian Murphy: Running back Greg McCrae was so good in the second half of last season, so how will he improve this year? Especially considering that opponents, unlike 12 months ago, are very aware of him now.
2. Which defensive player are you most excited to see this season?
Derek Warden: Eriq Gilyard. I don’t think it was coincidence that when he had to step in to Pat Jasinski’s spot at ILB for the second half of the first Memphis game, our defense became considerably better at stopping the run. But, the play that I knew he would be a great player was on the Nate Evans fumble return against ECU: he stayed with the TE as the TE run his route instead of biting on the play action, forcing the QB to second-guess the throw and buying just one more second for our defense to get the QB. That was a veteran play by a true freshman.
Luke Sarris: Richie Grant has the most hype around him as far as preseason watch-lists are concerned. I’m curious to see how he follows up a big season in 2018.
Eric Lopez: Richie Grant. I want to see if Richie takes it to next level and gets in conversation of the next great UCF DB
Jeff Sharon: I’m looking forward to seeing what Nate Evans will do in the middle. We know all about his tenacity and nose for the ball. Just look back at the ECO game last year for evidence of that. I can’t want to see him captain this unit.
Jeremy Brener: I’m so excited to see what Cam Goode will bring to the field. He appears to be super excited to be a Knight and he should fill the role that Trysten Hill vacated after leaving for the Draft.
Brian Murphy: Richie Grant. He’s just a natural ballhawk, and it’s fun to watch him try to bait quarterbacks into making bad decisions. Plus, all UCF fans should be excited to watch a player who could be a first-round NFL Draft pick next year.
3. Which player on either side of the ball will break out this season?
Derek Warden: I’m going to cheat and choose all of our Defensive Tackles. D-Line Coach Shane Burnham has said that this group is deeper and more athletic than last year’s, and that will allow him to rotate more bodies, which means they will not be as worn down in the 4th quarter as they were with only 3 players in the rotation, instead of the 6 on this week’s depth chart. If this unit is able to play well against Stanford’s O-Line, then not only will this be a great sign for the rest of the season, but there is only one senior listed, so next year it could be even better!
Luke Sarris: Aaron Robinson at nickel. Between transfer rules and an injury last season, he hasn’t really had his chance on the field. I think he’ll have a big impact this season.
Eric Lopez: Randy Charlton, Players have raved about Charlton as one of leaders on defense already and is name players at media day kept bringing up.
Jeff Sharon: This is Randy Charlton’s year. We’ve heard so much about him and seen glimpses of his wrecking-ball mentality. Randy Shannon must be champing at the bit to get him out there blowing things up on defense.
Jeremy Brener: Eriq Gilyard is going to step up big time for the defense. Pat Jasinski left a giant hole in the defense but I don’t think it will appear as large as it is because Gilyard is going to step into the role very well. He’s got all the potential to be the breakout star for the defense, now it’s time to fulfill that potential.
Brian Murphy: Defensive end Randy Charlton. UCF needs the sophomore to be a big factor on a D-line with a lot of question marks. He has all of the potential to be a disruptive force who can pile up the tackles for loss.
4. Who will start the most games this season at QB?
Derek Warden: It will be Brandon Wimbush, barring any injury. I think this offense will better show his talents (running/deep balls) while covering up for his shortcomings (short- and mid-range accuracy inconsistency). Dillon Gabriel will probably play in the first 3 games (if Darriel Mack comes back in time), and Mack will be the full time back-up once returning from injury, to preserve his RS year.
Luke Sarris: Brandon Wimbush
Eric Lopez: Gabriel.
Jeff Sharon: I’m going to say Darriel Mack. He’s already out of the boot and probably fairly close to coming back to practice (no word on that yet). If they can get him out there by the Stanford game, and he plays well, UCF’s offense could hit sixth gear given his familiarity with the system.
Jeremy Brener: It will be Wimbush because the staff will want to redshirt Gabriel. But I believe the staff is behind Gabriel the most. I wish they would start him right away, because I think he’s ready, but with McKenzie hopefully coming back next year, it’s the smartest course of action for the longevity of the program.
Brian Murphy: Brandon Wimbush will start the most games. I think he is going to have a fairly long leash as the starter because, ultimately, I believe UCF would like to redshirt Dillon Gabriel. That could change if circumstances warrant, obviously. But if you just asking about starts, I think Wimbush is the obvious pick. I can’t even consider Darriel Mack right now, because we just don’t know when he’ll be ready to play.
5. Score/attendance prediction?
Derek Warden: Attendance: 43,892, Score: 62-10
Luke Sarris: 62-10 - 41k
Eric Lopez: UCF 62-0 - 42k
Jeff Sharon: UCF 59, Florida A&M 7 - 44,000
Jeremy Brener: 66-13, I’ll let you figure out which team scores what. I’ll go with 40,001.
Brian Murphy: Just pick two numbers -- something greater than 45 for UCF, something one lesser than 20 for FAMU. I’ll go 55-10.
It will be a big crowd, but it won’t be that close to a sellout. For one, it’s a Thursday, not a Saturday. And it’s FAMU, not USF. Still, let’s go with 41,000 as a somewhat conservative ballpark estimate.