July 21, 2011
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By John Denton
ORLANDO (UCFAthletics.com) - Anticipation for the 2011 football season at UCF is higher than ever following the finest season in school history in 2010.
The Knights are coming off an 11-3 season in which they won both the Liberty Bowl and the Conference USA championship. UCF defeated Georgia 10-6 in Memphis on Dec. 31 for the school's first-ever bowl victory.
UCF also entered the national rankings for the first time ever last season and finished ranked No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Also, the Knights were No. 21 in the Associated Press poll and hope to begin next season in both national polls.
With the opening of training camp just two months away and the Sept. 3 opener at Bright House Networks Stadium against Charleston Southern approaching, UCFAthletics.com's John Denton will take a look at various players to watch this season leading up to the start of camp on Aug. 4.
PLAYER: E.J. Dunston
POSITION: Defensive tackle
HEIGHT, WEIGHT, CLASS: 6-2, 302, Sophomore
BEST ON-FIELD TRAITS: An exceptionally strong player, Dunston started three of the first four games of his college career last season. A year older and wiser, he'll be a fixture in the interior of the line along with fellow sophomore Victor Gray for years to come.
2010 STATISTICS: Playing immediately as a true freshman, he had 13 tackles, two stops for a loss and a quarterback sack last season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Both defensive tackle slots were major question marks entering last season, but the early progress of Dunston and Gray helped the Knights remain solid along the defensive front line. Teams averaged just 3.4 yards a carry and 110.4 yards a game on the ground against the Knights last season. Dunston split time with the graduated Wes Tunuufi-Sauvao last season, but he enters fall camp as the unquestioned starter this time around. He'll play primarily on run downs and will be expected to use his strength to clog up the middle.
WHERE HE'S BETTER: UCF head coach George O'Leary usually dislikes playing freshmen, but he started last season with two of them as his starters at defensive tackle - a first in his 35 years of coaching. But Dunston and Gray are a year older now and will be looked to for production on the interior of the defensive line. UCF is loaded at defensive end with Troy Davis, Darius Nall and Toby Jackson, so Dunston should see plenty of single coverage on the inside. The hope is that he will take advantage of his tremendous strength and quickness and become a dominant player on the inside.
UCF 2011 football season ticket packages can be purchased or renewed online at UCFAthletics.com or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) 823-1000. Home games include Charleston Southern [Champions UKNIGHT (Sept. 3)], Boston College [Hall of Fame Weekend (Sept. 10)], Marshall (Oct. 8), Memphis [Alumni UKNIGHT - Homecoming 2011 (Oct. 29)], Tulsa (Nov. 5) and UTEP [Senior Day (Nov. 26)]. Should UCF host the C-USA Championship Game for the fourth time in seven years, it would be played on Saturday, Dec. 3 and season ticket holders will receive the first shot at the best seats.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.