Inside The Knights Confidence Level Heading into Boise State Game, Defensive Line and Linebacker

With UCF Football closing in on the first game of the season, it’s time to discuss how confident each position group will perform. Today is a look at the defensive line and linebackers.
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Confidence levels will be based on the opponent at hand, information available to the media, being at practices, and the returning players for each UCF Football group. Keep in mind that the first game of the season presents the biggest challenge to anyone attempting to project how a player or position will perform.

Depending on the opponent, confidence level will likely change because of schemes, special players, etc. To begin, here's a video defining the confidence level for the defensive line and linebacker positions:

High Confidence -- Defensive Line and Linebacker

With a plethora of returning players that earned playing time from 2020, as well as some players that played significant minutes in 2019 and 2020, UCF’s front seven looked like a strength for the 2021 season anyway. Adding transfers such as linebacker Bryson Armstrong will bring even more to the linebacker unit, while defensive end Big Kat Bryant looks to be a unique edge rusher for the Knights.

Additionally, getting defensive lineman Kalia Davis back after he sat out last year due to COVID-19 concerns brings a dynamic dimension along the interior of the defensive line. Davis is athletic enough to play defensive tackle or defensive end, depending on the alignment. He’s a big reason the defensive line should thrive this season overall.

If you want a player within the defensive line unit that will make big plays that few discuss, look no further than defensive end Tre’mon Morris-Brash. With each UCF defensive lineman capable of being a pass rusher, the UCF front wall will be much more difficult to stop. Morris-Brash will probably be in one-on-one situations all game long. That will also be the case for fellow defensive end Landon Woodson, as his 6’6” frame could be the difference for pass rushing situations. Both of these defensive ends possess a chance to produce a big game against the Broncos.

As for the players that provide the biggest confidence level heading into game one from the linebacker core, each player should be considered vital for this game. Eriq Gilyard, Tatum Bethune and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste should thrive in the downhill scheme that will be unleashed next Thursday evening.

There will certainly be several players rotating in and out of the lineup because of heat and humidity (see below). It will be interesting to see how much Armstrong and other UCF linebackers play, as well as which ones line up as a nickel over a wide receiver or tight end.

Eriq Gilyard (10) is ready to make a tackle.

Eriq Gilyard closing in to make a hit

UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn mentioned during this week's press conference that the defense would simplify things for this first game in an attempt to play fast. That’s the bottom line with the linebacker unit, just like the defensive line. Allow speed and intelligence to make plays, not complicated schemes. That fact played a major role in why there is a high confidence level for the defensive line and the linebacker core.

The other item to mention about linebacker, which players are utilized in special packages -- nickel and dime -- during passing downs? There’s plenty of talent and athleticism for Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams to utilize. It’s just curious to see which linebackers play the most in different packages.

Key Notes: Which defensive lineman will the Broncos attempt to double team? Will it be Davis, perhaps defensive tackle Cam Goode? Bottom line, UCF has too many good defensive lineman and the Broncos will be challenged during obvious passing downs.

Heat and Humidity: It’s one thing to practice in the Orlando heat during August, it’s quite another to play during a game. More emotion, more responsibility, and finally more calories burned. Look for the Knights to rotate quite a few defensive lineman throughout the contest. Because the Knights possess more depth than many other prior UCF defensive fronts, this should aid their attempts to rush the passer in critical moments as well as the fourth quarter when the game could be on the line.

Who Starts and Who Plays: Does not matter much. Again, UCF has depth. Further, there will probably be different alignments with a three-man or four-man front, so players could rotate based on play calls along the defensive line and at linebacker.

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