As we continue to breakdown the UCF Knights’ Gasparilla Bowl matchup on Thusday against the Florida Gators, we take a look at the game from the defense’s standpoint with former UCF safety Tre’ Neal.
Tre’ has appeared on a couple of our Knight Shift postgame shows this season and shares his keys for UCF’s defense against Florida.
BGB: What was your reaction to UCF getting a chance to play Florida in a bowl game?
Tre’: Exciting! It’s always exciting to play in-state opponents. It’s also always fun to test the squad against an SEC foe.
BGB: What is your biggest concern about Florida?
Tre’: It’s always about the trenches in these games. We have to dominate offensively and defensively on both lines. Florida can be an explosive and physical team when they are mentally dialed in, as you saw against Alabama. So we have to physically be ready to win up front.
BGB: What is the key for the Knights to be successful on defense against Gators’ offense?
Tre’: Going back to the last question, definitely controlling the line of scrimmage.
Skill-wise, I think we are always going to have speed at the second level with Tatum Bethune and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste. And the secondary guys are athletic and explosive as well. If we can control the line of scrimmage and make plays to put them behind the sticks, we can dial up some pressures to get after Emory Jones.
BGB: Which Knight defender needs to have big game?
Tre’: I believe it’s going to have to be Tatum Bethune. He’s going to have to fly around and make a lot of plays in space, but he’s also going to have to get his nose dirty and stick his head in there and be physical in the run. Florida has some athletic playmakers at TE also in Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer. I think in this game, he will be able to showcase all of his talents.
BGB: What would a win over Florida mean for the program?
Tre’: I personally think it’s big with the in-state rivalries we have and the lack of games against the blue bloods in the state. Granted, Florida is in some turmoil right now, playing without the coach they started the season with (Dan Mullen), but again, in all my years at UCF, we always wanted to play Florida, FSU or Miami, somehow just for pride of the state. We wanted to show the world who runs the state.
A lot of these guys know each other and grew up playing with and against each other since they were in Pop Warner, so there’s a lot of familiarity. It’s always good for the recruiting trail as well.