Before I get to UCF, some recap from Southern Miss.
I thought the Southern Miss game was encouraging. The team definitely looked better than it did at this time last year, and Chris Leak looked sharp. His interception was due to Percy Harvin not running his route correctly, and his two deep throws to Andre Caldwell were underthrown, but aside from that he looked great.
The thing that bothered me the most about the offense was the decision to keep going to five wide receiver sets. I still think most of the stuff about The Urban Meyer Offense™ is rubbish, since Meyer is a good enough coach to know not to force the wrong offense on his players like he did at times last year. However, Chris Leak does not get rid of the ball fast enough to do five-wideout sets. Either Leak needs to get rid of it faster, or they need to keep Billy Latsko or DeShawn Wynn in the backfield to block. Otherwise, teams will just blitz the five-wide sets and more often than not get a sack or a throwaway pass.
The running game was disappointing, but losing Wynn early didn’t help. With Markus Manson out for this week, Meyer says that freshman Mon Williams will get to play. For as hyped as he was, it will be interesting to se ehow he does. Wynn will probably see limited action again, and Kestahn Moore will need to improve if he plans on not losing carries to Williams. The coaches say that they’ll use Harvin in the backfield as a runner.
Speaking of, Harvin was electric. He is one of the fastest players I have seen in a Gator uniform in a long while, probably since Bo Carroll. Some students around campus are calling him the Reggie Bush of receivers. It’s a little early to compare him to Bush, but he will get a chance to do some Bush-like things lining up in the backfield this week. He was the best freshman on the field, and that will likely continue. Meyer says that he will try to get Jarred Fayson more involved this week, and rightfully so. Tim Tebow got his touchdown carry, and the students are definitely behind St. Timothy, but he probably won’t see much more action this week since it will likely stay as close as the USM game did for most of them game.
Dallas Baker looks like he will be the workhorse wide receiver for this season. Leak and Baker have been playing together for four years now, and it definitely shows. Baker will almost certainly lead the team in receptions over the course of the season.
On the defensive side, it was a bit lackluster without Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris. They both should be back this week and that will solve a lot of issues. USM got a lot of garbage yards in the second half once they realized that Thomas was not going to be playing (Harris was suspended) and the Eagles adjusted accordingly. Derrick Harvey looked pretty good though, and things will be fine there. The most important thing is that after the cheap touchdown USM got after their interception, Southern Miss didn’t score. The secondary will have to get better though. The three interceptions were nice, but were the product of two floaters and a deflection, and they won’t be getting those regularly against SEC opponents.
As for UCF, this will be an annoying game. it will be closer than the USM game since UCF is an in-state team looking for respect. Not only do the Knights want to show that they belong with the Big 3, but they want to show that the Big East was wrong to pick USF over them.
UCF QB Steven Moffett was actually the quarterback at my high school all four years I was there. He’s got a good arm and he can scramble. However, something that hasn’t changed since high school is that if you put pressure on him, he will run around, panic, and make bad decisions. It was never more apparent than his last throw in the C-USA title game last year. With Thomas and Harris back on the line this week, it should be a long game for him.
George O’Leary is too good of a coach to let that decide the game, however. He likely will try to slow the game down because UCF doesn’t have the horses to win a shootout. It will be as frustrating as most Vandy games, but UF should come out on top in the end by about 13.