Golden Knights look to slay Badgers

UCF tailback Alex Haynes

Sophomore QB leads young offense under new head coach

Saturday signifies the beginning of a new era for Central Florida football as it takes the field at Camp Randall under new leadership. Former Georgia Tech head coach and Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary has taken the reins.

Although O'Leary will not be in Madison for the game because of the death of his mother, he has already begun to mold the Golden Knights into his kind of team. After a dismal 3-9 record a year ago, UCF is eager to rebuild and rebound in the 2004 campaign.


Steven Moffett (UCF Athletics)
Following record-setting quarterback Ryan Schneider's suspension late last season, freshman Steven Moffett was thrown into the fire, and he returns this year to direct the Golden Knight attack. Whether Moffett holds on to the top spot all year remains to be seen, as junior Brandon Sumner and freshman Kyle Israel have practiced with the first-team offense.

"I think our quarterbacks are all talented athletes," O'Leary said. "Obviously, they don't have enough grass underneath their feet as far as enough sunrises to sunsets as far as just experience is concerned. But they all can throw the ball well, which I think is the No. 1 thing I look for in a quarterback. And they all have a good head on their shoulders so they can make the right decisions, which I think is critical for young quarterbacks that they make right decisions and they basically do the things necessary to get you in a good play and out of a bad play."

Moffett will operate behind an extremely young offensive line, where the oldest starters—Dan Veenstra, Cedric Gagne-Marcoux and Sean Gilhuly—are sophomores. The inexperienced group will also try to open some holes for senior tailback Alex Haynes, an Orlando native who rushed for 774 yards last season. Haynes, who needs just 630 yards to break the school rushing record, will have some company in the backfield this year.

"Alex will get his opportunities," O'Leary said. "But I'll play all three tailbacks. That's the way I want to do it because I think it's a long season and you need to keep fresh legs out there. Alex will get his opportunities as will (sophomore) Dontavius Wilcox and Curtis Francis, who I've been very impressed with as a true freshman, as far as ability to see daylight and get things going."

In the passing game, senior wide receiver senior Tavaris Capers caught 67 balls for 565 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago and should once again assume a large role in his senior season.

Defense was not the Golden Knights' forte in 2003, as they ranked 89th and 80th in scoring and total yardage defense, respectively. One bright spot is the secondary, where the Knights possess the strong safety tandem of Atari Bigby and Peter Sands, both seniors. Bigby has twice been named to the all-MAC first team, while Sands ranks ninth in Golden Knights' history in tackles.


Atari Bigby (UCF Athletics)
"Defensively, I think the secondary area is probably the strength of the defense," O'Leary said. "There are some good athletes back there that can do a lot of different things."

Juniors Paul Carrington and Frisner Nelson return to anchor an inexperienced defensive line. Carrington checks in at a robust 6-foot-7 and Nelson notched the second most tackles-for-loss on last year's squad.

Another question mark on defense is the linebacking corps. Senior Stanford Rhule returns to man one outside spot and is looking to bounce back after an injury-marred 2003. Rhule totaled 127 tackles in 2002, good for third in the conference. Senior Josh Stephens will start in the middle after making the move from defensive end. Junior James Cook rounds out the starting trio.

One of UCF's best weapons is junior Matt Prater, who led the nation in punting a year ago. Prater is on the 2004 watch list for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award and, interestingly enough, will start at kicker, but back up walk-on Aaron Horne at punter.

Though Saturday is just the beginning for the Central Florida Golden Knights, they will be looking to start the rebuilding process a little early.

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