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Meet the 2014 UCF Knights: UCF playing better defense in the post-Bortles era

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David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
UCF Offense Off. S&P+ (national rank) Yds/Play
(national rank)
Yds/Rush
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2014 99.7 (64 out of 128)
5.1 (105) 3.2 (120) 7.6 (45)
2013 130.1 (9) 6.6 (16) 4.4 (57) 9.1 (9)

Central Florida wasn't going to move on from Blake Bortles without feeling a little pain, and the Knights also had to replace leading rusher Storm Johnson, who ran for more than 1,100 yards in 2013. So the 2014 UCF offense is not quite the top-20 yardage-gobblin' machine it was the season prior.

Quarterback Justin Holman, who averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and completed 59% of his throws in the regular season, hasn't done a terrible job in replacing Bortles. But he has been considerably more turnover prone, throwing 13 picks in 339 attempts (1 INT/26 pass att.) while Bortles threw nine in 385 (1 per 42.8 attempts).

The good news for the Knights in 2013 is they brought back nearly all of Bortles' major targets--Breshad Perriman, Rennell Hall, and J.J. Worton. (Though Worton will miss the bowl game because of injury.) That likely helped Holman's transition to some degree, but he didn't get any help from the ground game, which ranked 105th in yards per game during the regular season.

Defensively, the Knights are much better than they were in 2013, and this is where their experience--they're saying goodbye to like 20 seniors on Friday night--really is evident. Their top five tacklers are all seniors, including standout linebacker Terrance Plummer. Plummer was a first-team All-AAC selection and leads the Knights with 90 tackles and 12.5 TFL.

Of the nine UCF players to make first- or second-team All-AAC, six play on the defensive side. Defensive back Jacoby Glenn picked off seven passes during the season, which was good enough to earn him Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.

With so much experience here, particularly in the back seven, it'll be interesting to see what NC State is able to get from Jacoby Brissett and it's below-average group of wide receivers. Then again, if State's able to run the ball the way it did over the last couple weeks of the regular season, Brissett's passing production may not matter much at all.

UCF Defense Def. S&P+ (national rank) Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2014 108.4 (37)
4.3 (4) 3.1 (7) 5.4 (2)
2013 107.6 (51)
5.4 (49) 4.0 (48) 6.5 (24)