clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2022 UCF Football Position Preview: Defensive Backs

With most of the defense's experience in the secondary, leadership must flow from the back to the front.

Derek Warden

UCF Knights head football coach Gus Malzahn stated during American Athletic Conference Media Day that depth on the defensive front is the biggest obstacle of the off-season. While Malzahn has made it a point to fill the necessary gaps in recruiting, the experience that still remains within the defensive secondary will clearly be where the team’s leaders for 2022 reside.

Why do 2021 numbers matter for 2022?

Critics will point out that the defensive backfield only delivered six of the team’s 11 total interceptions (the other five came from the defensive front and three of them from players who transferred after last season). However, this group has numbers that showed why they were successful in picking up the slack despite the gaggle of injuries that plagued UCF’s front seven.

Low interception numbers are always a lament for fans because it leaves the assumption that corners can’t lock down their assignments and that safeties can’t break fast enough to punish a quarterback for taking a chance over the top. But when a defensive front is limited by injury and opposing receivers are given more time to run as a result of dampened pressure in the backfield, defensive backs are often asked to sit back in a “bend don’t break” style that lends itself to offering short and safe passes that leads to fewer takeaways.

However, this group was also scrappy and tough enough to earn six sacks on the year as well while also having two of the top four tacklers on the team.

But why is all of this relevant? Because there are so few big departures from this part of the roster. With this many returners featuring two on an award watch list and an upgrade in transfer Koby Perry from Austin Peay, there’s plenty of evidence they can fill the gap in any personnel shortcomings with the line and linebackers.

Knights Still Charging

While Perry is an intriguing key factor as a 5th-year newcomer to UCF, there are plenty of veterans to get excited about.

Divaad “Newt” Wilson - Named to the 2022 Nagurski Trophy Watch List, Wilson tallied up the 4th most tackles on the squad with 72 while chalking up a sack and two interceptions.

Davonte Brown - With his name on the 2022 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List as possibly the team’s best cover man, Brown had the most passes defended among Knights last year with 12 while also hauling in an INT.

Quadric Bullard - Bullard had the 2nd highest total tackles for the program with 83 in 2021 which didn’t include his notorious accidental injuring of Malzahn on the sideline. However, his ability to zip around the field and deliver punishment makes him valuable as a safety to fill gaps if a young linebacking corps makes a mistake in run protection.

Justin Hodges - Playing in only nine games last year, Hodges had the 2nd highest count of passes defended for UCF. While also recording a sack and an interception last year, he made a number of plays to help UCF become the first bowl-eligible team in the state of Florida.

UCF’s Defensive Backs

No. Name Ht Wt Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
No. Name Ht Wt Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
3 Ja'Cari Henderson 6-0 160 Fr. Seminole HS 3-star recruit (247), T-#1 Orlando Sentinel Super 60
4 Koby Perry 6-0 185 5th Austin Peay OVC Defensive Player of the Year, 85 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT
7 Davonte Brown 6-2 185 Jr. UCF 38 tackles, 13 PD
8 Demari Henderson 6-0 160 Fr. Seminole HS 3-star recruit (247), T-#1 Orlando Sentinel Super 60
9 Divaad "Newt" Wilson 6-0 195 R-Sr. UCF All-AAC 2nd Team, 72 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INT
12 Justin Hodges 6-2 175 Jr. UCF 35 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 7 PD
14 Corey Thornton 6-1 190 Jr. UCF 32 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 6 PD
17 Trevion Shadrick-Harris 6-2 195 R-Jr. UCF DNP, scout teamer
18 Dyllon Lester 6-0 200 R-Sr. UCF 22 tackles, 2 INT
19 Ah'Mare Lee 6-0 200 R-Fr. UCF Redshirted
21 Nikai Martinez 5-11 170 Fr. Apopka HS 4-star recruit (247), 10 career INT
22 Daniel McCullon 5-10 205 R-So. UCF DNP, scout teamer
23 Jaiden Francois 6-0 190 R-So. UCF 3 games, no stats recorded
24 Jarvis Ware 6-1 190 R-Sr. UCF DNP - Injury
27 Jarrad Baker 5-11 170 R-Jr. UCF 4 tackles
29 William Wells 6-2 185 So. UCF 5 tackles
31 Brandon Adams 6-3 180 So. UCF 19 tackles
34 Terrell Jackson 6-1 170 Fr. Air Force Signed but did not attend USAFA in 2021
37 Quadric Bullard 6-0 170 Jr. UCF 83 tackles, 4 TFL, 6 PD, 3 FumRec
43 Zach Rodriguez 6-1 200 R-Jr. UCF 4 games, no stats recorded
46 Philjae Bien-Aime 5-9 180 R-So. UCF DNP, scout teamer