June 4, 2011
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By John Denton
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ORLANDO - With the opening of the 2011 campaign quickly approaching, UCFAthletics.com's John Denton takes a look at Kemal Ishmael, a leader for the Knights defensive backfield.
PLAYER: Kemal Ishmael
POSITION: Free safety
HEIGHT, WEIGHT, CLASS: 5-11, 211, junior
BEST ON-FIELD TRAITS: Ishmael is UCF's surest tackler and rarely ever misses in the open field on takedowns. He's also a selfless, team-first player as evidenced by his decision to bat down the final pass of the Liberty Bowl as opposed to trying to intercept the ball.
2010 STATISTICS: Ishmael led UCF in tackles as a sophomore, registering 57 solo tackles and 36 assists for 93 total stops. He also intercepted two passes, broke up five more and forced two fumbles - one of which was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Josh Robinson. Ishmael also had one of the biggest plays in school history, batting down a Hail Mary pass in the end zone on the final play of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to secure the defeat of Georgia. He was voted a first-team All-Conference USA safety last season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: A starter since he was a true freshman, Ishmael quickly has become one of George O'Leary's favorite players because of his football smarts, leadership and no-nonsense approach. Because of his size, toughness and willingness to play physical football, Ishmael plays like a fourth linebacker in run support. And because he is a diligent worker in the film room, Ishmael rarely ever gets beat in the pass game. Just a junior, he could ultimately become a team captain because of how much he is respected by his peers and coaches.
WHERE HE'S BETTER: Ishmael had 11 tackles and two pass breakups in the Liberty Bowl against Georgia and played much of the second half of the season with an aching shoulder. He had a procedure performed on the shoulder in the spring, something that should make him an even more dominant player next season. He and Robinson, both juniors, are close friends and team together to give UCF one of the best secondary units in C-USA. Ishmael's leadership will also be important as the Knights break in new defensive back starters A.J. Bouye and Clayton Geathers this season.
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.