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2022 Football Position Preview: Defensive Line

A mix of veterans and transfers should help the Knights up front

Tre’mon Morris-Brash leads the Knights’ D-Line
Photo: Derek Warden

One of the new maxims of the Transfer Portal era in College Football is Turnover begets questions. The UCF Knights’ defensive line unit is no exception to this.

While the Knights bid farewell to some heavy contributors this offseason, several experienced veterans return, and some new talent is ready to be infused into the mix.

The Old Guys

Big Kat Bryant was arguably the most talented player on the D-Line last season. Despite accounting for only 52 total tackles, he was a backfield destroyer, but 14 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 10 hurries — all team-leading marks. Not bad for a guy who spent all of one season at UCF.

Tre’Mon Morris-Brash
Photo: Derek Warden

But even with him gone, UCF returns a lot of talent and production, starting with Tre-Mon Morris-Brash, who was second on the team behind Bryant in sacks (10) and TFLs (5). Josh Celiscar, Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, Landon Woodson, Anthony Montalvo, Ricky Barber, and Keenan Hester also all return to the D-Line, all of whom played at least 11 games last year.

The key with all of those guys having experience is tactical. UCF rotates its defensive linemen frequently in order to keep them fresh against no-huddle offenses. If the offense keeps the tempo it’s supposed to keep, this will again be key. UCF was 104th in the nation in time of possession in 2021, and though that was an improvement from under Josh Heupel, nobody will confuse Gus Malzahn with Bill Parcells when it comes to offensive pace.

The New Guys

UCF Spring Game
K.D. McDaniel tackles Jordan McDonald in the Spring Game
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Coming into the mix are two huge transfers: Lee Hunter and K.D. McDaniel.

Hunter comes from Auburn, where he did not play last year, but adds some serious beef to the line at 6-4, 320 pounds and has four years of eligibility left.

McDaniel is a veteran, having played three seasons at Kentucky before transferring over to UCF. He has two years remaining.

The Young Guys

Elsewhere down the depth chart are a series of guys looking to make their mark, including 2021 Scout Teamers like Karlis Bailey-Vice and Malachi Lawrence, and incoming freshmen Jamaal Johnson, Keshaun Hudson and K.T. Thompson.

While it’s likely they work on Scout Team in 2022 like their predecessors, they will get the opportunity to work into the regular rotation if they beat some of the veterans out.

What To Watch For

UCF’s defense was great at causing havoc. They were top-35 in the nation in team sacks and tackles for loss.

But as with everywhere, there is room for improvement, particularly against the run. UCF’s rush defense ranked 79th ranking in the nation at 159.2 rush yards allowed per game. But the tell was in the wins and losses: In UCF’s 9 wins, opponents averaged just 106 yards per game on the ground, and in four of those 9, the Knights gave up less than 100 yards. But in the four losses, UCF gave up 279 rushing yards per game, and 200+ in three of the four.

It’s a tale as old as football itself: Win in the trenches and you win the games. If UCF’s defense is going to continue its improvement under Travis WIlliams, and give its offense the scoring opportunities it will need, especially in the early part of the season while the QB situation gets figured out, it will have to rely on the guys up front to dominate the game.

UCF Defensive Line

No. Name Height Weight Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
No. Name Height Weight Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
2 Lee Hunter 6-4 320 RS Freshman Auburn Former 4-Star Recruit (247)
5 Ricky Barber 6-3 290 RS Junior UCF 29 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 Sacks
13 Landon Woodson 6-6 235 RS Senior UCF 13 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack
33 Tre'mon Morris-Brash 6-2 245 Senior UCF 23 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 Sacks, 1 INT
35 Keenan Cupit 6-2 255 RS Sophomore UCF Worked with the Scout Team
40 Kervins Choute 6-3 285 RS Sophomore UCF Worked with the Scout Team
47 K.D. McDaniel 6-2 250 RS Junior Kentucky 13 tackles, 3 QB hurries in 9 games in '21.
51 Malachi Lawrence 6-4 270 RS Freshman UCF Worked with the Scout Team
52 Keenan Hester 6-4 305 RS Junior UCF 24 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 Fumble Recovery
55 Karlis Bailey-Vice 6-1 200 RS Freshman UCF Worked with the Scout Team
56 Matthew Alexander 6-3 280 RS Freshman UCF Worked with the Scout Team
58 Dallaz Corbitt 6-5 240 RS Junior UCF Worked with the Scout Team
84 Keahnist Thompson 6-3 255 Freshman Lakeland HS 3-Star Recruit (247)
88 Josh Celiscar 6-4 265 Junior UCF 39 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3 Sacks, 2 Fumble Recoveries, 1 Forced Fumble
90 Keshaun Hudson 6-1 307 Freshman Dillard HS #154 in Florda (MaxPreps)
92 Austin Camden 6-3 290 5th-Year UCF 5 tackles
94 Anthony Montalvo 6-3 290 5th-Year UCF 34 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Forced Fumble
96 Trace O'Hara 6-2 235 RS Sophomore UCF Worked with the Scout Team
99 Jamaal Johnson 6-2 250 Freshman Chaminade-Madonna HS 3-Star Recruit (247)