ORLANDO - When it comes to college football, injuries impact each and every game. Throughout seven games this season, UCF has been plagued by the injury bug, dealing with multiple injuries to key defensive players.
UCF lost star defensive tackle Kalia Davis to a season-ending knee injury against East Carolina on Oct. 9. The fifth-year senior had 17 total tackles, three quarterback hurries and one sack in five games of play. The Knights defensive line group has also endured the absence of 6’3" 290-pound redshirt sophomore Ricky Barber, who fully returned to action this past Friday against Memphis after almost entirely missing three games.
Despite the injury disadvantages for the Knights, someone who has flourished would be defensive end Josh Celiscar. The sophomore edge rusher currently has 18 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, and two fumble recoveries. Celiscar ranks fourth in the nation with his two fumble recoveries.
With key pieces like Davis out and Barber battling injuries, Celiscar could see increased playing time, lining up with defensive tackle Cam Goode and defensive end Tre’Mon Morris-Brash.
“He's capable of being a really good player,” UCF Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “He is one of those guys that gets overlooked. He's done a very good job for us this year."
The defensive line group had its best outing of the season in the win over Memphis on Friday. The Knights had season highs of six sacks and 10 tackles for loss in a 24-7 victory. Celiscar did not record a sack in the game, but he was in the backfield pressuring quarterback Peter Parrish. Attack Parrish from multiple angles helped Big Kat Bryant record two sacks on the evening.
At 6’4”, 265 pounds, the sophomore defensive end was a highly talented in-state recruit. Celiscar recorded 69 tackles, nine sacks and two recovered fumbles as a senior outside linebacker, while also playing tight end for Winter Haven (Fla.) High School.
Celiscar’s brother, Donald Celiscar, played cornerback at Western Michigan from 2011-14, starting 40 career games, and corralling 10 interceptions. Initially a Western Michigan commit himself, the younger Celiscar decided to flip just ahead of the December 2020 recruiting signing period. Once on campus, he quickly earned playing time.
Appearing in all 10 games as a freshman, Celiscar started twice on the defensive line, totaling 16 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks during the season. He also intercepted a pass, recorded a pass break up, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
In his freshman debut, Celiscar forced and recovered a fumble on the UCF nine-yard line, while also intercepting a pass from Georgia Tech signal caller Jeff Sims. Celiscar finished with two tackles, a forced fumble (and the recovery), and an interception, good enough to earn the 247 Sports True Freshman of the Week Award.
Coach Malzahn said Celiscar’s recent success on the field has increased his confidence to where he’s “Playing with an edge” and “Being more physical.” As the Knights dealt with the ever lingering injury bug, Celiscar certainly took advantage of the opportunity to play more and contribute more.
"Josh has really done a good job,” Malzahn said. “In the spring, he was one of our younger guys. You saw him grow: I'm really proud of Josh because he's come a long way from the spring to where he is now.”