As training camp and the season draw near, we look at a UConn football opponent through the eyes of a beat writer who covers that team. Here we look at UCF, and the writer is Shannon Owens of the Orlando Sentinel. UConn plays UCF on Nov. 1 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
What expectations does the coaching staff have for the team this year?
Despite some major losses on offense — namely, quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson, both members of the Jacksonville Jaguars now — coaches expect the team to be competitive. They arguably have the best receiving corps in the school's history, a solid defensive line and lots of experience returning in the skill positions
Who are the key players for this year's team?
OL Torrian Wilson, OL (center) Joey Grant, WR J.J. Worton, WR Rannell Hall, WR Breshad Perriman, RB William Stanback, LB Terrance Plummer, DB Clayton Geathers, DB Jacoby Glenn.
What players are new to the team and expected to make an immediate impact?
Whichever quarterback wins the role will be new in some ways and that will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on the team.
What are the team's strengths on offense?
Virtually every skill position has experience and talent returning from the 2014 Fiesta Bowl championship team. The wide receiving corps is arguably the best collection in school history, and running backs Will Stanback and Dontravious Wilson give the team the explosiveness it needs to make big plays. Center Joey Grant is the sole lineman returning to the same position, while Torrian Wilson moved from left tackle to left guard. Although there is some inexperience on the offensive line, there is much athleticism.
What are the team's strengths on defense?
The defensive line is much improved from last season, anchored by Jaryl Mamea, who had the best spring football session showing. Although coach George O'Leary wasn't happy with the secondary's performance in the spring, he knows he has talent in defensive back Clayton Geathers, who is on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Linebacker Terrance Plummer is also on the Bednarik Award watch list and is the heart and soul of the defense.
What is a key concern in 2014?
No question, the biggest question mark is who will replace Bortles. The three most likely options are sophomore Justin Holman, redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo and Boise State transfer and Orlando native Nick Patti. Freshman Tyler Harris has a bright future but is still young and learning the offense. No one has seen Patti yet because he didn't transfer to UCF until the summer, but no quarterback won the starting job outright after spring football. There are still questions about who will take the lead.