InsideKnights Secondary Preview

As the Knights begin to embark on their 2008 season, there are some potential question marks mixed in with a lot of bright spots. However, if there is one constant amongst UCF's team this year, it is seemingly UCF's secondary, which ranks amongst one of the brightest units in the conference, and potentially the nation.

The Knights return all four starters in the secondary and also have a host of talented backups. Joe Burnett headlines a group that has been intact for four seasons now, and should give opposing quarterbacks fits throughout the season.

Starters: Joe Burnett (CB), Jason Venson (FS), Sha'reff Rashad (SS), Johnell Neal (CB)

With an abundance of talent amongst UCF's defensive backs, Burnett perhaps shines the brightest. The fourth year starter is an ultra quick corner with terrific ball skills. Last season, Burnett picked off six passes and looks to repeat that success in 2008.

Opposite to Burnett is Johnell Neal. Neal tied Burnett's six interceptions last year and after a bizarre incident in which he was shot outside his house in Louisiana; Neal is ready for the season to begin. Despite suffering some nerve damage in his hand, Neal appears to be in tip top shape and should combine with Burnett to makeup a very formidable duo.

Venson and Rashad are both physical players and are reliable last lines of defense. Both are aggressive players with good size, speed, and instincts. The two are great tacklers for defensive backs, registering 195 tackles combined.

Projected Backups: Emery Allen (CB),Justin Boddie (CB), Breon Rogers (FS), Darin Baldwin (SS), Reggie Weams (FS)

Allen will serve as UCF's top reserve at corner and will also be the team's nickel back. Allen is a little undersized, but technique wise, he is nearly flawless. He brings quickness and tenacity as well, and will more than fill in for Neal and Burnett when they are taking a breather. Boddie is learning the ins and outs of the position, but he is developing into a nice player with good all-around cover ability.

Rogers, the only second-string senior, provides excellent size, good hitting ability and covers the field well. Next to him is Darin Baldwin, who like Boddie, is learning the intricacies of the defense, but will only improve as he becomes more confident in his ability. Weams too is learning, and the coaches are hoping he can come of age this season and certainly by next year, when Venson, Rashad and Rogers are gone.

Strengths: Depth and talent; UCF's starting secondary is amongst the best in the nation, and the Neal-Burnett tandem at corner might in fact be the country's best. Add in backups who could start for a lot of other teams and you have one of the deepest, most skilled secondary's anywhere in the country.

Possible Concerns: If you can find one, let us know. The team has immense talent here and there is very little to pick apart. Perhaps the backs can be a little overaggressive at times, but coaches really have no qualms in that.

Position Overview: To reiterate, this is one of the best secondary's in the nation. UCF had 24 interceptions last year, which was the third-most in the nation and with all four starters back and a lot of talent on the second-string, the Knights might look to increase on their total this year.


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