UCF Spring Football Review: Defensive Line

Jarvis Geathers (Laura Bernstein)

With four senior starters in the defensive secondary and all three linebackers returning from last year's campaign, UCF's focus this spring, at least defensively, was on its defensive line, which lost four marquee players to graduation.

With some experience returning amongst the front four, the Knights didn't miss a beat and after a strong spring, UCF's defensive line looks like it will deeper and perhaps more talented than ever before.

Last season, the eventual Conference USA champs used an eight-man rotation on the defensive front in order help keep its big guys rested and there was a slight concern heading into the spring that the Knights would not be able to use the same method in 2008, but within a week into practice, it was crystal clear that UCF's front was loaded.

At defensive tackle, the Knights returned two integral members to last season's rotation in juniors Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons. At 6-3", 320 lbs, Troup was a load for opposing offensive linemen to handle last season, and he continued that trend through the spring. Center Mike Lavoie has the daunting task of blocking Troup every day in practice, and while he held his own, Troup regularly clogged the middle and made it difficult for the offense to establish the run.

In the Spring Game, Troup notched two sacks, showing that he could add a presence as a pass-rusher. His partner in crime, Timmons, is a little smaller at 6-4", 285 lbs, but he too established himself as a marquee player this spring, using his quickness to creep into the backfield and make plays.

Both Troup and Timmons got some starts in last season and will be the key members of the defensive front this season. A lot will be expected out of sophomores Wes Tanuffi Suavo and Rashidi Haughton, as well as junior T.J. Harnden. Haughton had an excellent Spring Game, logging four tackles and half a sack.

The team's defensive ends were possibly the most impressive group throughout the course of the spring. UCF boasts a plethora of talented ends who are able to rush the passer or stop the run, and while the group is young (just one senior), they are experienced.

It appears as if sophomore Bruce Miller has emerged as the top player on the edge. Last season he was named to the C-USA All-Freshman first-team after recording 7.5 sacks. Throughout the spring, Miller was stout against the run and also was constantly at the quarterback's heels. When asked what his goals for the offseason were he said "[I] need to improve on everything, especially speed and strength." Miller also added that he wanted to play faster and pick up assignments quicker, and he made a step towards that this spring, highlighted by a 1.5 sack performance in the Spring Game.

There is still some question about who will start opposite to Miller, but that might not make too much of a difference considering the amount of rotating the Knights do. Through practice, fellow sophomore David Williams received a majority of the first-team reps, although he played with the second-team in the Spring Game. Williams displayed a high motor throughout the last several weeks and could be seen making plays all over the field. Darius Nall, also a sophomore, could push Williams for playing time and he too will likely be a key fixture in the defensive line rotation. Nall is a little slimmer than Miller and Williams but he too can slow down the run.

The lone senior on UCF's front four is defensive end Antonio Wallace. A converted linebacker, Wallace combines excellent speed and size (6'2", 251 lbs.), and could be another UCF end who can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. "I worked on hand work, agility drills and speed over the offseason," said Wallace, who is also hoping to make All-Conference in his senior season and is off to a good start towards that goal, as he logged four tackles and a sack in the Spring Game.

Another end who could make a big contribution for UCF is incoming junior college transfer, Jarvis Geathers. He is a little undersized at 215 lbs, but he has an amazing first step and is hard to block in space.

Overall, it was an extremely impressive spring for UCF's defensive line. Although the linebackers and defensive backs might have more experience, the Knights know they can rely on a very talented and deep group of players on the front line.

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