The 2021 football season is right around the corner for the UCF Knights. It’s a new era with head coach Gus Malzahn running the show, With a new season comes new expectations. Today, we’re going to look at the defensive line.
The defense struggled last year. This was due to a variety of factors, including COVID opt-outs, roster dismissals due to disciplinary issues, and a general lack of depth that came as a result of the above, along with the typical wear and tear a team suffers from. Add an offense that operated way too fast and you have a recipe for disaster. With Malzahn running an offense that should afford the defense with some more rest, and with new defensive coordinator Travis Williams bringing in a new attitude and energy, the defense is looking to be much different than last year, starting with the defensive line.
This is the most improved unit on the team
Prior to last season, lineman Kalia Davis opted out for the season. He was supposed to be one of the defensive leaders on the team. With him out, the line did not have as much success as they had hoped and it created a cascading effect that affected the other position groups. We know how well that worked out. Well, he’s back and this is a group loaded with talent.
Along with Davis is newcomer Big Kat Bryant, a transfer from Auburn and Western Kentucky transfer Ricky Barber. Both Bryant and Barber started at their respective schools last year. In Big Kat Bryant, the defense gets a second team All-SEC player who was a team captain. Like Malzahn and wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers, he played against UCF in the Peach Bowl. Barber was a freshman All-American as voted by the Football Writers Association of America and an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection.
This is also the most senior-laden unit on the team
The defensive line is loaded with seniors. This year’s seniors include Big Kat Bryant, Khalia Davis, Stephon Zayas, Noah Hancock, Anthony Montalvo, and Austin Camden. While having so many seniors is a cause for concern next year, UCF has some talented linemen who should still be around in 2022. Cam Goode, Tre’mon Morris-Brash, and Landon Woodson are juniors while Josh Celiscar and Ricky Barber are sophomores. In the case of Davis, Montalvo, and Camden, they potentially have an extra year of eligibility, so the defensive line could vary widely in how it will look next year.