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Week 1 Checklist: 4 Questions for UCF vs. Florida A&M

We’re all excited for the start of the season, but here are four things I’m most looking forward to tracking tonight.

UCF guard/tackle Samuel Jackson
Photo: Derek Warden

We are T-minus eight hours until kickoff as I write this. The Knights will begin their 2019 season tonight versus the Florida A&M Rattlers. And, for all intents and purposes, it’s going to be a blowout; a game that should lose all tension by the end of the first quarter. UCF is somewhere between a 45-48-point favorite.

So, this isn’t a “Keys to the Game” piece, because that’s just insincere with a probable walkover. This is more of a “Things I Want to Watch Most” piece. But that title is worse than the already mediocre headline I’ve written above (suggestions are welcome).

Every week, I’ll put down four questions concerning the next game, and then I’ll come back a day later to provide answers from what I saw. Cool? Cool.

1. Has Brandon Wimbush really improved his mechanics?

Wimbush and Dillon Gabriel will be under a magnifying glass tonight, but I’m more interested in watching Wimbush’s body positioning and footwork. His accuracy — or lack thereof — was a major factor in his benching last year at Notre Dame, and those scattershot throws can be generally attributed to poor passing fundamentals. From what little we saw of the team scrimmages this fall, he is still not the most refined passer. QB coach Jeff Lebby even said earlier this month that Wimbush is a “work in progress” when it comes to body positioning but did also compliment his quarterback for all the work he has put in to correct those issues.

The offensive line should give Wimbush plenty of space to choose his target, properly set up, step through and throw on time. I just want to see how often he puts all of that together.

2. How does Samuel Jackson look at left tackle?

Throughout camp, we had heard there were three men battling for the starting spot at left tackle: Trevor Elbert, Edward Collins and Tony Gray. Then the depth chart gets released Saturday and who’s on the top line at LT? Jackson. He’s listed as a co-starter with Gray. Collins is displayed beneath them, and Elbert is listed as the backup to Jake Brown at right tackle. Jackson also shows up as a co-starter with Parker Boudreaux at his regular spot of right guard, so he’s going to be a busy man regardless.

Jackson has spent only the past five practices on the left edge and admitted Sunday he “looked ugly” in that first practice at tackle; he was still lining up in his wide, guard stance. However, Jackson said he got comfortable quickly. He did see a bit of time at tackle in 2017 but has basically spent his UCF career at guard.

FAMU won’t test this line as much as future opponents, but I am intrigued to see how Jackson fares overall.

3. Who stands out among the defensive tackles?

Last season, UCF played only three defensive tackles in most games: Trysten Hill, A.J. Wooten and Joey Connors. They will be replaced this year by a revolving door of five or six DTs, according to defensive line coach Shane Burnham.

I think fans are most excited to watch Virginia Tech transfer Cam Goode, but he’ll be joined by the likes of Noah Hancock, Brandon Wilson, Kenny Turnier, Mason Cholewa, etc.

Coaches have said that this collection of defensive tackles is more athletic than their predecessors. But are they actually better? We get our first look tonight.

4. What will defensive end Dedrion Bacote-Sweat do?

He’s not even listed on the depth chart, but both Burnham and defensive end Randy Charlton said this month that Bactote-Sweat was the team’s best pass rusher during spring ball. He has been beset by awful injury luck the past two seasons, but he is expected to have an impact as a sub-package player who will have his ears pinned back on passing downs. If he stays healthy, Bacote-Sweat can be a legitimate force coming off the edge for this defense.