Patrick Brown (UCF Athletics)
Replacing one of the best offensive lines in UCF history will be a tall order for the 2008 squad, but it is certainly manageable. The Knights will return two starters from last season’s line, which helped set the way for running back Kevin Smith.
Left tackle Patrick Brown comes back for his fourth and final season at UCF. Brown has started 38 consecutive games for the Knights, which is the most amongst any left tackle in the entire nation. Brown is one of just two experienced senior starters on offense for UCF, and his leadership will go a long way for his line and the entire offense.
Starters: Patrick Brown (LT), John Hafferty (LG), Mike Lavoie (C), Jeramy DeVane (RG), Adam Nissley (RT)/Jah Reid (RT)- Brown brings three years of starting experience on the left side, and his overall ability as a run and pass blocker make him a vital ingredient to UCF’s success. His leadership and stability are invaluable.
Hafferty came to UCF via the Universities of West Virginia and Kansas State, and the senior appears to have found a home in Orlando. Hafferty logged some good playing time while at Kansas St, and the stout lineman is expected to make a big contribution this season. He is a physical run-blocker who is adapting to the Florida heat after playing up north, and once he gets in tip-top shape, he should be a mauler.
Lavoie is an experienced senior and will be a full-time starter for the first time of his career. He’s a knowledgeable player who has been around the program for five years now and knows how things are run.
DeVane also brings experience as a starter on the right side, and at 6’3”, 300 lbs, he has good size and solid mobility, making him a steady all-around blocker. Nissley is a true freshman who started out as a tight end, but was a surprise player named first team on the depth chart. Nissley is big for a tight end, (6’6”, 260 lbs.) and because of strong effort in camp, he looks to log some playing time this season. Reid was penciled in as the starter on the right side and will likely have the opportunity to win the position back, but it seems like he might need some motivation. Reid is a massive player 6’7”, 320 lbs. and will be very important for the Knights. With the left-handed Michael Greco at quarterback, his role protecting Greco’s blind-side will be heavily scrutinized, but the talented sophomore should be up to the task.
Projected Backups: Nick Pieschel, Ian Bustillo, Mike Buxton, Cody Minnich, Steve Robinson, Billy Offutt
The Knights have good depth here with nice experience and raw talent. Ian Bustillo is a junior who has been around for a while and knows the ropes. He will be relied on as a backup at center, and could eventually be a starter in 2009. Pieschel and Buxton both stand over 6’7”, and have the ability to develop into massive blockers. Robinson, a true freshman, has been solid in the preseason and could break into the rotation. He should be a devastating blocker down the road.
Strengths: Size and talent; the Knights have legitimate size and have handled BCS teams in the trenches over the past several years. From top to bottom, this is one of, if not the most impressive groups in the C-USA.
Possible Concerns: Cohesiveness; an underrated aspect of offensive line play is the ability to work as one unit, a la the New England Patriots’ line. With only two starters back, the group will need some time to gel, but Coach O’Leary has been pleased with how the group has been coming together thus far.
Position Overview: As the Knights embark on their 2008 campaign, UCF’s offense will attempt to put up points at the ungodly pace it did last season. The Knights lack experience at the skill positions, but certainly not talent, so line play will be huge for the team. UCF’s line should be able to get good push against opponents, and as long as the group develops camaraderie, the unit should be more than solid.