This list is not comprised to call any players out, but more to offer our perspective on guys that have contributed over the years but will be called on to step it up even more, as their success will likely coincide with the team’s success.
1.) Kamar Aiken, WR- After a freshman year in which Aiken totaled 584 receiving yards and five touchdowns, his sophomore campaign was marred by injuries and inconsistency. Things got off to a rough start in the spring, when he developed a bad case of the dropsies. Then he was hurt early in the year and never really made it back to 100 percent. He looked better this past spring but was hurt early on and never had the chance to make an impact. Aiken has more talent than perhaps any offensive player on the roster, but he must combine his elite athleticism with fundamentals for the Knights to find their way back to the C-USA championship.
2.) Travis Timmons, DT- Talk about potential, Timmons has the ability to join Torrell Troup in the NFL after the 2009 season, but the 6’4”, 288 lb. tackle struggled with being consistent last year and lost his place in the starting rotation for a brief period. Timmons is extremely nimble for a big guy and if he goes all out all the time, he could be part of one of the nation’s top tackle tandems. Timmons went on record as not being happy with a 4-8 prediction by an InsideKnights.com writer and his ability to go from a good player to a great one might allow the team to easily surpass last year’s mark.
3.) Rob Calabrese, QB- The now sophomore was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, as he began his collegiate career against a dominating Boston College defense that featured two first-day NFL picks. Starting at quarterback is no easy task for an 18-year-old, especially when the players around you have been bothered by injuries. Calabrese gradually improved as the season progressed and made strides this spring, being poised and effective. This is a critical summer for him though, as he must develop chemistry and get timing down with his receivers. Joe Weatherford and transfer Brett Hodges will not make keeping the starting job easy for Calabrese, so he will be forced to continually improve in order to stay first on the depth chart.
4.) James Poe, RB- I remember Poe running me over when I was a junior at Dr. Phillips H.S. and I expect more of the same as he begins his first season with the Knights, but hopefully he’s knocking down defenders and not the 150 lb. reporter on the sideline. Poe has bounced around some but seems to have settled in his hometown. Poe started the spring off with a bang but the redshirt sophomore didn’t continue to grow. With a full summer to get in shape and learn the offense, the bruising back (6’4”, 230 lbs.) should improve. In fact, he has to improve, as the Knights lost a valuable short-yardage runner in Latavius Murray this offseason. UCF needs a back to keep Brynn Harvey fresh, and the staff probably wants Poe to be that guy, especially in goal-line situations.
5.) Reggie Weams, S- Here was another guy that showed improvement during the spring, but he’ll need to continue to rapidly improve due to the speed he’ll consistently see in the C-USA. Teams in the conference (and out of conference teams such as Texas and Miami) will take long shots early and often, and Weams will likely be the last line of defense in most situations. He is a big hitter but he needs to refine his coverage skills because the team’s cornerbacks are fairly inexperienced. If he can continue his growth, he’ll be a real solid safety.
This group of players should improve this summer, but how much will greatly affect the team’s season. All of them have different roles to play, but all are critical to the team bouncing back.