Scouting the MAC: Central Florida

The Knights were a talented independent program that became an even better squad in the MAC Conference last year. Even after losing four games by a combined 14 points they still won seven games on the season. While they are known as the alma mater of Duante Culpepper, they have quietly put good talent into the NFL.

The major problem this season? Suspension and academic ineligibility. Several highly rated UCF prospects will be sitting on the sidelines or could be transferring after not meeting academic requirements. The highest rated player, tight end Michael Gaines, was ruled academically ineligible just days before the season opener. In fact Gaines only spent two years on the football field as various reasons have caused him to red-shirt three of the last five years. Gaines is a tremendous athlete with size and speed. Strong at the point blocking, Gaines plays with excellent lean and strength. Though not very involved in the passing game, Gaines was very natural catching the pass and made plays down the field. Obviously it is a wait and see proposition for the big tight end. Quarterback Ryan Schneider is very underrated yet a field general with an NFL arm and a heart of a warrior. Schneider is tough in the pocket and buys time as he scans the field. All of his short or intermediate range throws have zip and his deep passes aren't bad. Schneider is shorter than one wants in a pocket passer but has a solid build and ability to withstand the rush. He is a passer that will slip through the cracks into the middle rounds of next April's draft yet could surprise many at the next level. Ball carrier Alex Haynes is solid on the inside and a tough runner that can take a lot of hand-offs for a team. Haynes lacks the speed to turn the corner but could find a home as a situational/rotational runner at the next level. Guard David Ashkinaz is quick off the mark, strong at the point but lacks lateral range and has limited skills in space. Tackle Kyle Watkins is an intriguing prospect based on his size but must really focus on the details of his position and pick up his overall play.

In a similar fashion, the Knights top defensive prospect was ruled academically ineligible. Middle linebacker Chad Mascoe was a tough, run stuffing defender best up the field in a straight line. He has a good head for the ball and while possessing limited lateral range, always took good angles to the ball. There was speculation he would transfer to another program just weeks ago. Interior linemen DeMarcus Johnson and Larry Brown are both quick but undersized tackles who may fit a three-technique scheme. The Knights have a pair of junior safeties to watch. Peter Sands is a nice sized defender and hard hitter. He lacks the speed and range to cover deep centerfield but projects nicely to strong safety. Atari Bigby does have nice cover skills and a compact yet tough build and looks like a solid future prospect.

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