With all three starting linebackers returning after a stellar 2007 campaign, UCF's second level of defenders is ready for an even bigger season in 2008. Combine the experience of the three starters with a group of talented and battle-tested backups, and the Knights have one of the best linebacker groups in the C-USA, as voted by its peers.
Starters: Derrick Hallman (OLB), Chance Henderson (MLB), Cory Hogue (OLB)
Spearheading the group is Hogue, the unit's most experienced player. As a freshman, Hogue logged 34 tackles and six starts, and has been a force for his entire collegiate career. Hogue is a strong backer who is a textbook player with terrific instinct and should again be a leader for the Knights on and off the field.
In the middle, Henderson offers a big body at 6'1", 241 lbs. He is stout against the run and is improving in pass coverage, and should expand on a very good sophomore campaign. Next to Henderson will be Hallman, who had a stellar spring game and a very good preseason camp. Prior to this summer, Hallman was on the second string, but after filling in for Hogue (who will be out this week with a leg injury), the true sophomore earned a spot with the first team.
Projected Backups: Jordan Richards, Lawrence Young, Alex Thompson, Loren Robinson, Jack Carter, Josh Linam.
While the team has an extremely talented starting unit, the backups offer just as much experience and skill. Richards started for the Knights two years ago before an injury ended his '07 season. He is a ferocious player with a high motor, and should see the field often this year.
Young, who started as a frosh last year, was slated to be the starter this year but Hallman beat him out, at least for now. With Houge out for S.C State's game, Young will get another chance to prove himself as the starter and could reclaim his spot if he beats out Hallman. Robinson is a tough inside backer with good size, and Carter and Linam offer good depth.
Strengths: Talent and depth; In the C-USA, no other LB corps can match UCF's. Hogue and Henderson are both experienced players with great technique, while Hallman and Young are impressive athletes. Richards is a physical player who could start for a majority of the teams in the conference.
Possible Concerns: Pass coverage; this is being a little nitpicky, but in a conference that has a handful of teams that love to spread the field, UCF's linebackers will drop back a nice amount of the time. UCF's backers aren't poor in coverage, but it isn't their strengths, as it is for most LBs.
Position Overview: This is basically the most talented group in the C-USA, and it might be one of the most talented array of LB's in the country. With an excellent combination of instinctual run stoppers and athletic playmakers, solidified with tremendous depth, UCF's linebackers should be very good in '08.
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