UCF may not have any pressing concerns about its starters amongst the front four on defense and depth isn’t too big of an issue either. However, the Knights will have to make sure they get plenty of reps for the younger backup defensive tackles, who will need experience after mainstays like Torrell Troup and Travis Timmons are gone.
So far the Knights have begun to answer many of the questions and concerns that perplexed UCF fans this offseason. The offensive line looks significantly better than it last year at this time, the secondary has some play makers and the wide receivers are much more consistent.
While the team still needs improvement at these positions, they are without a doubt heading in the right direction. Few have thought to mention the defensive line as a potential concern because of its two dominating tackles and its depth at defensive end. However, there still has to be some apprehension in regards to how the backup defensive tackles will progress this year.
Strictly for depth purposes, the Knights seem fine at tackle this season. Torrell Troup is one of the C-USA’s best players and Travis Timmons has the ability to make a big impact as well if he bounces back from what he described to be a disappointing 2008 campaign. Coach O’Leary noted that versatile end Bruce Miller has the size and strength to move inside on passing downs. But with Troup and Timmons ready to graduate this year, there will potentially be a gaping hole inside UCF’s defense in 2010.
As of now, Chris Martin and Wes Tunuufi Sauavo are the projected backups at tackles. Martin, a grey-shirted freshman was a sought after recruit in high school and so was Sauavo, a junior who has moved back and forth from offensive and defensive line.
“I think Wes will absorb the blocks that have to get done to keep the linebackers clean and Chris Martin is still a guy that’s learning how to play a little bit, he’s still a freshman,” said O’Leary. “That’s the beauty Darius Nall and Geathers, you have some ends that can play and you have no problem putting a guy like Miller inside on third-down situations. I think there’s enough bodies there where we can roll people and keep fresh leg out there.”
There’s certainly enough depth for now with Troup and Timmons manning the front line, but what about when they leave? The staff has high expectations for Martin, but he didn’t blow them away this spring.
“We have don’t have great depth inside, so Chris (Martin) is going to have to play for us,” said defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. “Quite honestly, I was little disappointed in him in the spring time. He’s worked hard this summer, he’s a guy we’re going to have to count in to go in there. Torrell (Troup) and Travis (Timmons) can’t play every down, so Chris is a guy who’s going to have to come on and have a great camp.”
So far, neither player has improved by leaps and bounds this summer, although a steady progression is being made. True freshmen Frankie Davis and Brandon Bryant likely won’t see much playing time this year, but their progression on the practice field and in the weight room will be closely monitored, as they might be added to the mix next year.
To make matters worse, two top-rated commits from this past class, Tay Irvin and Deon Simon, were both projected tackles who weren’t eligible to enroll this year. They are expected to come to UCF this January, but that puts them behind an entire summer and fall.
Troup is confident that some of the younger players behind him will step up after he leaves.
“I feel like someone is going to step up, there are a couple of good guys I see out there” said Troup. “They just need experience and it’s going to take time, they just need another year to get in the weight room and get stronger, but those guys are going to be good when they get older.”
If UCF hopes for their defense to remaining strong in 2010, players like Martin and Sauavo must improve in the opportunities they are given.