Injuries, graduation have taken toll on UCF
Losing players like linebacker Terrance Plummer, defensive back Clayton Geathers (team-high 11 tackles against UConn last season) and receiver J.J. Worton (11 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown in the '14 game) to graduation is tough enough but then receiver Breshad Perriman and defensive back Jacoby Glenn declared for the NFL draft. Running back William Stanback, who ran for 141 yards and a pair of TDs against the Huskies the last time out, was dismissed from the team. By my count he is one of 12 players who had remaining eligibility who are not on the current UCF squad including the two players who left for the NFL. Among that group is defensive lineman is Miles Pace, who had three tackles for loss and a sack in the last meeting.
Wait, it gets worse for the Knights. Starting center Joey Grant and starting defensive tackle Demetris Anderson suffered season-ending injuries. In fact according to UCF, the Knights lead all FBS teams with 26 games missed by starters due to injury this season. That has resulted in 13 true freshmen seeing time for UCF and UCF head coach George O'Leary said earlier this week that six true freshmen were on the field at the same time.
According to my math, of the 22 offensive and defensive starters for UCF in last season's stunning 37-29 loss to UConn, 15 of them have departed or are injured and that doesn't include quarterback Justin Holman, who has been sidelined with a finger injury.
Not only are all the UCF players who scored touchdowns against UConn in last year's game gone (Stanback had two, Perriman and Worton one each) but of the nine players with multiple tackles in the 2014 contest, only Thomas Niles and Errol Clarke are back and Clarke is listed as a backup on the UCF depth chart. By comparison, 14 of the 17 UConn players with at least two tackles in the game are expected to suit up for the Huskies on Saturday.
UCF used 55 players in last year's meeting and by my count, 26 are no longer on the team, three are out for the season due to injury and six others are not on the depth chart. That list doesn't even count injured players like Holman and Drico Johnson who should return at some point this season.
This is how I broke it down for UCF
18 players are back who saw the field in last year's game (including Drico Johnson, who was listed as doubtful for the game according to the Orlando Sentinel).
26 have graduated or are no longer with the team
3 are out for the season due to injury
6 are not listed on the depth chart
Neither Holman or Johnson are listed above
So if Holman and Johnson are out, 37 of the 55 players who saw time against UConn a season ago will not be on the field. UConn could call upon 42 of the 54 players who saw snaps against the Knights.
On Monday's AAC conference call, O'Leary said "everything that we have caused we have caused ourselves and if we clean those things up we will be fine."
What does all this mean for UConn? I'm not sure but you can rest assured that coming off three straight losses, the Huskies still know that returning home with a win will be no easy task. The Huskies have been outgained in their last 12 true road games and in 10 of the last 15 true road games the Huskies have not scored multiple offensive touchdowns.
"Does a freshman wide receiver look the same as a high-round, first-round draft pick wide receiver?" Diaco said when I asked him yesterday is this UCF team looks similar on tape to the teams he has played in the last two seasons. "But they have talented players. They have been playing in the conference for three years and they only have two losses, they have produced the top recruiting class over and over and over again so they have a roster full of very talented players. We know who they are and what they are going to be. Coach O'Leary is one of the best coaches in the country for a long, long time and I have no doubt that they are going to be a great, great team like we anticipated."