VANQUISH THE FOE: The Knights return a lot of starters from last year's Fiesta Bowl team that mauled Baylor but they are still breaking in a few players at key positions. Who are the players that are still growing into their roles?
Shannon Owens-Green: UCF has 21 seniors on the roster, but are still very young on offense. Sophomore quarterback Justin Holman has shown great promise and has a cannon-arm for the deep ball, but coaches still want to see more consistent execution out of him in terms of going through all of his reads and better decision-making on third down situations.
Sophomore running back Will Stanback is still growing into this role as the No. 1 tailback and getting used to the physicality of the position where he’s obviously carrying the ball a lot more than last season. And then, of course, there’s the offensive line which is very young outside of returning starters center Joey Grant and left tackle Torrian Wilson. Tarik Cook saw some time as a starter last season, but is currently backing up injured left guard Colby Watson. Lots of youth all around on offense, with the exception of the veteran receivers.
VANQUISH THE FOE: BYU is recovering from the devastating loss of quarterback Taysom Hill. What kind of offense are the Knights expecting to see on Thursday night?
Shannon Owens-Green: Players and coaches have said they’re still expecting to see much of the same offense that Taysom Hill ran with that read option. Not a lot of deviation from what Hill ran with Christian Stewart.
VANQUISH THE FOE: The UCF defense is the strength of this team, with it being one of the top rated units in the country. Are there any weaknesses on that side of the ball the BYU offense can exploit?
Shannon Owens-Green: UCF’s defense has improved greatly from its first two games against Penn State and Missouri. They’ve adjusted their pursuit angles in tackling and have greatly improved in the pass rush. Honestly, outside of getting a little more speed on the edges of that line, it’s difficult to say what other areas they can improve on at this point other than continuing to execute the fundamentals.
The biggest weakness for the defense has actually been the team’s offense. The offense’s inconsistency in extending drives has at times put the defense in vulnerable positions, that was particularly evidenced in the Missouri game where the Knights’ defense held the Tigers to 14-10 until late in the third quarter. After UCF threw an interception, Missouri gained momentum and the defense started to get worn down
VANQUISH THE FOE: With Justin Holman still developing at quarterback for UCF, who are the skill players on offense who will help lighten his load?
Shannon Owens-Green: Any receiver. Pick a receiver. They’re all playmakers, but the key is obviously getting them the ball. More than that, it would really help Holman out greatly if the run game could get some consistency and take some of the pressure off of him to make big plays. Earlier in the season, coaches said we have enough playmakers and just need the quarterback to manage the game. That hasn’t been the case with a run game that hasn’t really taken off yet. The quarterback has to execute the passing game in order for this offense to have success.
VANQUISH THE FOE: Based off of their last meeting back in 2011, what is UCF's perception of the BYU football program?
Shannon Owens-Green: Based on my conversations with players throughout the week, they have a great respect for BYU and don’t want to overlook any opponent – healthy or unhealthy. Last weekend proved just how crazy and unpredictable the college football season can be so UCF just wants to perform well on a nationally ESPN-televised game on a Thursday night.
VANQUISH THE FOE: How do you see the game playing out on Thursday?
Shannon Owens-Green: If UCF’s offense performs with great execution and efficiency and the defense plays with the type of tenacity they’re known for, I think it could be a good Knight. Pun intended.