Speed Kills

When the Knights take on the University of Miami Saturday afternoon, they will almost certainly be facing the fastest, most athletic team on their schedule. It will be up to the UCF defense to limit big plays and the UCF offense to move the chains and keep the Miami offense on the sidelines.

"When you watch them, they are very athletic," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "They are a group that you can see the youth in some of the positions. It is a game that we are basically going to have to be tough at the point of attack and not lose focus on some of the assignments we have on offense and defense. Obviously we have to eliminate the hidden yardage in the passing game. In the run game, I think (Greg) Cooper is a very good running back who makes a lot of people miss."

Miami's team speed certainly stands out on film.

"They fly around to the ball," said Knights tight end Cory Rabazinski. "That's probably the thing that stuck out to me the most as far as separating them from other teams we've played. They're probably the fastest team we've seen so far."

The best defense against Miami is a good, time consuming ball control offense. The Knights will have to use some of their good size up front to neutralize and open up holes for the running game to keep drives alive.

"This week will be critical to sustain blocks," O'Leary said. "Miami is very athletic defensively, and they run extremely well. Ronnie (Weaver) is starting to understand that not every play is a big play, it could be only a two or three yard gain, but later in the fourth quarter it could turn into an eight or nine yard gain. That was the toughest thing Kevin Smith had to learn. All we count on is four yards a run play and anything after that is gravy."

Running back Ronnie Weaver struggled finding holes in the first four games of the season, but exploded last week against SMU for a career high 123 yards on 25 carries. Weaver scored his first career touchdown and his 123 yard effort was the first 100 yard game for a Knights running back this season.

George O'Leary made some changes to his depth chart on the offensive line prior to the SMU game and it was effective. Junior Ian Bustillo started at center, and Mike Lavoie, who was the starting center moved to right tackle to replace Jah Reid.

"I think we are just trying to get more bodies involved," O'Leary explained. "(Ian) Bustillo has been his own worst enemy as far as why he wasn't out there. I think he showed great effort and did a fairly decent job out there for his first start. I was pleased for him. He needs to do that with consistency. We have seven or eight guys who we can play on the offensive line. We carry 10 when we travel. The only one I want to keep out is (Steven) Robinson. I don't want to play him because once he does; he will have to play all the time since he is a true freshman."

The Miami offense lines up numerous players that will end up playing on Sunday's when their careers at Coral Gables are finished. The relatively young ‘Canes offense averages just 302.8 yards per game, but they average 31.8 points per game, which is more than 13 points better than the Knights average.

"They'll come out with three-wides a lot," O'Leary said when describing the Miami offense. "The quarterback Marve, I've been impressed with him, I think he's a very athletic guy with a strong arm. He doesn't run a lot, but when he does I think he has a lot of capability when he does."

Marve, a former top prospect from Plant City High School (Tampa area) is getting on the job training at the quarterback position as a redshirt freshman. Marve has completed 57% of his passes for 538 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. Although those stats aren't going to scare many opposing defenses, the potential of the ‘Canes wide receivers will.

"I think they have a bunch of young guys at receiver that can go get it, that make a lot circus type catches and their good players," O'Leary said.

The Knights claim that they're going to go in with the same game plan as usual.

"We're gonna play our defense," said Knights defensive tackle Torrell Troup. "We have a couple of defensive schemes formed, but mainly we're just going to line up and play. We're a pretty good defense as long as we play our game, and if we play our game, I think we can stick with anybody."

The Knights secondary will have its hands full. Cornerback Joe Burnett has been great, but the rest of the secondary has allowed big plays all year long. Even in the Knights two-touchdown victory over SMU last week, the defense allowed a 94-yard touchdown pass to Eldrick Robinson, a player that may not even be good enough to start for Miami.

"Our defense will have its work cut out for them," O'Leary explained. "I think the charge there is to make sure we keep the ball in front of us."

If the Knights can cut out the big plays by Miami and make the ‘Canes offense march on long fields, they will have a shot at forcing some mistakes by the young Miami quarterback, and could have a chance at an upset.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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