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UCF Secondary Finds its Groove

UCF’s secondary could have started something that could be a major transition for the defense as a whole.

ORLANDO - After a stellar performance against Memphis, what will UCF’s secondary do next? If the cornerbacks and safeties continue to play like they did against the Tigers, the Knights will be able to do many more things with the defense.

A top-notch secondary changes play calling for a defensive coordinator, as well as an opponent’s offensive coordinator. That’s not been what the Knights were known for over the past half dozen seasons, however.

It’s been a long time coming. UCF has been known for top-notch offenses since the 2017 season when the Knights’ passing attack threw for 4,313 yards and 38 touchdowns. During that same 2017 season, the UCF secondary picked off 20 passes, making it one of the nation’s most opportunistic.

With UCF expected to see the return of injured quarterback Dillon Gabriel fairly soon, perhaps UCF can begin to transition back towards being an explosive offense and also create havoc in the secondary.

Here are key components for the UCF’s final line of defense to continue to work towards as their progression continues against Temple this Saturday and beyond.

Continue to Take the Football Away

Against Memphis, the cornerbacks and safeties made catches when the football came their way. You may have heard the following phrase from football fans, or perhaps even made the statement yourself:

“That’s why he’s a defensive back. He can’t catch!”

Versus Memphis, the UCF cornerbacks, as well as the secondary as a whole, took that phrase to task and defeated it. The UCF secondary capitalized by intercepting three passes from quarterback Peter Parrish.

From those three passes, cornerback Davonte Brown intercepted one himself, as well as deflecting a pass that ended up in the arms of safety Divaad Wilson, and cornerback Corey Thornton also deflected a pass in the endzone, with safety Dyllon Lester coming up with the carom for the secondary’s third pick of the the evening.

Congratulations to all the defensive backs for allowing those plays to happen. That includes the cornerbacks and the safeties. Even when the football did not come their way, often it was because Parrish did not have a throwing lane due to a UCF defensive back doing an excellent job of sticking with his assignment and narrowing the options for Parrish to throw the football. That's especially true with Brown and cornerback Justin Hodges.

UCF Cornerback Justin Hodges played excellent football against Memphis, nearly intercepting a pass during the game.

UCF Cornerback Justin Hodges played excellent football against Memphis, nearly intercepting a pass during the game.

Run Defense Matters

One of the reasons a secondary makes plays in the passing game would be taking advantage of obvious passing situations. When the scoreboard shows a down and distance such as third and eight, defensive backs hold a decided advantage.

For that to happen, the secondary needs to continue to be a part of the run defense and make plays. It’s nothing more.

Do your job, play your keys, and get as many hats to the football as possible. That includes every member of the secondary. As long as the UCF secondary accomplishes this task of playing the run just as much as playing the pass, there could be plenty of games where UCF’s secondary picks off multiple passes moving forward because the scoreboard will show more of those enviable third down and eight situations.

Continue to Hone Your Craft

The secondary should be considered young. Beyond cornerback Marco Domio and safety Derek Gainous, many of the members of the UCF secondary hold three years of eligibility beyond 2021.

That will provide young players like cornerback freshman cornerback Brandon Adams a chance to be more effective. The 6’3” cornerback from Georgia already displayed his talents during multiple games, and despite not even being a full-time cornerback during his high school days, he’s adjusted well to the position while playing for the Knights.

Now, imagine how good this young man will be, as is the case with the other young UCF defensive backs, if he truly digs in and studies the play book, listens to his coaches regarding technique, and studies film the way he needs to do.

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One cannot teach the physical traits of Adams. His length and speed give him a chance to be a special player. To reach elite status, however, he will need to improve his skills each and every day.

As an example, NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders possessed height, length and the blazing speed that he was famous for. What many do not know would be how much Sanders studied his opponents on film. That extra time in the film helped him pick off those passes and return them into the endzone for six, where he would do his dance.

Many of those plays would not have happened if Primetime had not been a player that watched film and knew what’s coming his way. All of the members of the UCF secondary need to take the same approach as Sanders.

For college football, UCF Football, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more college football, UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!

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