By: Joey Nelson, UCFAthletics.com Student Assistant
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The Knights will hit the road for a Conference USA bout against Marshall on Oct. 27 in a crucial contest for the East Division crown. UCF claimed a 16-6 victory in last season's matchup, holding the Marshall offense to just one first down in the first half while senior tailback Brynn Harvey rushed for 180 yards on 30 carries in a torrential downpour. UCF has won seven-straight games in the series.
Doc Holliday enters his third season as head coach and continues to churn out positive results for the football program. Marshall finished off its 7-6 season on a high note, defeating FIU, 20-10, in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Marshall returns seven starters on offense and only five on the defensive side of the football. While Holliday's recruiting class ranked second in Conference USA, the Herd will look to revamp an offense that ranked No. 102 in total offense and overhaul a defensive unit that ranked No. 96 in passing defense, No. 58 in rushing defense and No. 74 in scoring defense.
Offensive Player To Watch
At 6-foot-1, 170 lbs., sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato is set to man the Marshall offense. Cato completed 182 passes for 2,055 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Even though Cato managed a 125.8 passer rating, he threw 11 interceptions and was dropped in the backfield for 22 sacks. Coaches have been impressed with Cato's growth this offseason, praising his development on and off the field. If the Herd's lead guy can avoid turnovers and produce progressive drives, the Marshall offense should find some success in keeping the ball out of the Knights' hands
Defensive Player To Watch
With question marks on the defensive side of the ball, the Thundering Herd is looking to maintain some consistency. Marshall lost its top defender, Vinny Curry, to the NFL Draft and have other holes to fill at the linebacker position as well as the safety and corner spots. Look for coaches to mix things up at linebacker, with guys like Jermaine Holmes, T.J. Ross and Armonze Daniel leading the charge. If UCF's offensive linemen can make easy work of the Marshall defense, the run game could have a big day. Marshall's secondary will feature plenty of young players alongside second-year defensive back Keith Baxter, including four-star signee Amos Legget and three-star recruit Andre Scott. Experience should play in favor for the Knights at the wideout position, led by senior Quincy McDuffie and sophomores J.J. Worton and Josh Reese.
Knight vs. Thundering Herd Matchup To Look Out For
Freshman wide receiver Breshad Perriman made quite an impression on head coach George O'Leary this past spring and is making a strong push for an expanded role in the Knights' offense. "For a true freshman, I'm really impressed with him. I think he's done a lot of really good things out here for a good-sized receiver," said Coach O'Leary to the Orlando Sentinel. "He's going to help us next year, there's no question." Perriman is a physical force at 6-foot-4 and isn't afraid of contact. It'll be interesting to see how the Marshall secondary will combat against Perriman and the Knights' wide receivers when they face each other this upcoming season.