Gus Malzahn has never been known as a defensive mastermind but he has done a good job of hiring defensive coaches who could at least field a solid group. He really hit it out of the park with Travis Williams who had not called a defense before last season. Williams has infused his own aggressive and fiery personality into his defense. He will have his group fired up to try to shut down the Louisville offense.
A familiar face will key the defensive front for the Knights. Doss High School product Ricky Barber will line up at defensive tackle against Louisville for the fourth straight year. You read that correctly. Barber started his career at Western Kentucky where he played against the Cards in his first two seasons. He then transferred to UCF before last season and he will see Caleb Chandler and Adonis Boone once again.
Barber and Anthony Montalvo are the two interior linemen in the 3-3-5 scheme that Williams deploys. This defense is a bit of a mix between what Syracuse runs and what Louisville runs. Essentially, the “Dog” position lines up as a stand-up defense end while they have a fifth defensive back instead of a “Card”. Montalvo had a solid game last season and will be a very big key for how UofL does up front as he can blow up run plays.
The player who hadn’t recorded a single statistic before coming up with a massive interception last season? He’s back and he ended up going off after the Louisville game last season. Tre’mon Moriss-Brash ended up with 10 tackles for loss and 5 sacks to go along with his interception and he is back at the Buck position which is their key pass rusher position. UofL has to account for him as he is the only returning player that consistently got to the quarterback last year.
Linebacker had a bit of a shakeup this year. Tatum Bethune is now starting at Florida State and Eriq Gilyard is at Kansas manning the middle. That leaves the Knights with Jason Johnson at one of their inside linebacker spots. Johnson was a 2-time FCS All-American at Eastern Illinois before heading to UCF. Jason John-Baptise lines up at the other spot and the veteran backer is a consistent player who makes a lot of tackles.
UCF has brought back most of their starters and depth at cornerback with both starting corners back at the top of the depth chart. Davonte Brown is the key player here after finishing last season with 13 PBUs.
At safety, Divaad Wilson returns as a very good safety who transferred in from Georgia a few years ago. Wilson can do it all as he had a very impressive diving interception last week. Quadric Bullard is also an impressive safety with solid speed and coverage ability. Both players do well to play downhill against the run even though they spend a lot of time lined up fairly deep in the secondary. These two will be a big factor in the game, in my opinion.