Intro to Spring at UCF: Defensive Front Seven

Last season, the Knights entered Spring practice with several pressing questions, most of which involved the offense. One thing UCF really wasn't concerned about was the quartet of seniors starting in the secondary. Led by Joe Burnett, UCF's defensive backs were responsible for keeping the Knights in a lot of games. However, the front seven is the group that really emerged.

It is hard to measure how good UCF's front seven was last year because entire defense was frequently put in difficult positions by an anemic offense, but the defensive linemen and linebackers were dominant at times.

UCF's front four was led by defensive tackle Torrell Troup a year ago and now as a senior, he will be expected to step up as an emotional leader for the team as well. Troup was perhaps the most dominant player in the conference last year, although he only earned C-USA second team all-conference honors, which might have been the biggest conference snub last year. Troup was double-teamed on nearly every play last season and still wreaked havoc on opponents.

Yes, Troup was dominating throughout last season and the same is expected of him this season, but that consistent supremacy around him has been lacking.

That's not to say that UCF's front seven wasn't spectacular last year. Bruce Miller and Jarvis Geathers were both terrific at times last year, but the phrase there is "at times." Miller finished with seven sacks while Geathers had five and a half. Both progressed through the season and are expected to build on last year's performance, but for the Knights' to have a shot at winning a conference title or beating BCS teams like Texas or Miami, the two must be explosive every weekend.

The same can be said for the linebackers. The team did a good job rebounding from the loss of Corey Hogue, who is expected to be back this year as a redshirt senior, but consistent dominance is needed in order to take the team to the next level. Hogue's intensity should help his fellow linebackers stay focused and motivated at all times.

In the middle, Chance Henderson has been solid for two years now, as he does everything that is expected from a middle backer. He takes on blocks, forces runners into his other backers and plays excellent in a phone booth.

The two outside backers, Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman, both have similar strengths as Miller and Geathers. They can be extremely disruptive, as both routinely make plays. They are expected to make even greater strides as juniors next year.

The return of Darius Nall is also worth watching this spring, as is the development of Travis Timmons, who faded late last year.

With the offense still growing and a fairly inexperienced secondary, UCF is going to have to lean on its front seven. If the group can rally around Troup and go from good to great, then the Knights have a legitimate shot at returning to the C-USA championship game. If the group has too many hot and cold streaks though, the Knights might struggle with some ball-control issues. With that in mind, the progression of UCF's front seven is certainly an intriguing aspect of the spring.

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