Football is back on campus at UCF

It may still be summer but football is back on campus at the University of Central Florida (UCF) as players participated in their first team practice on Wednesday.

The UCF Knights football team had their media day on Thursday, starting with a press conference from head coach George O’Leary. UCF went 10-4 last season, which included a 38-17 win in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s over Ball State after the Knights lost in overtime of the Conference USA title game.

Blake Bortles secured MVP of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bowl by completing 22-33 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 80 rushing yards on nine carries. Bortles is now a redshirt-junior and looks to lead an offense that returns all but one starter from last season’s team.

UCF’s wide receiving core returns all but two players this season including senior Jeff Godfrey, who two years ago entered training camp as the starting quarterback ahead of Bortles.

Godfrey will line-up alongside J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall and Breshad Perriman, who all caught at least three touchdowns in 2012.

With the departure of running back Latavius Murray, who graduated, the Knights running game will now rely on Storm Johnson, who who was second on the team last year with 507 rushing yards. Johnson had a career year in 2012 after sitting out the 2011 season following his transfer from the University of Miami.

The Knights defensive secondary returns two starters this season in Clayton Gathers and Brandon Alexander, but UCF lost eight interceptions over the offseason with the graduation of three defensive backs including Kemal Ishmael.

Alexander and linebacker Terrance Plummer are the only returning players who recorded an interception in 2012.

On special teams UCF returns kicker Shawn Moffitt, who went 10-14 kicking field goals in 2012 with his longest one coming from 49 yards out. Moffitt did miss five PAT’s last season, going 59-64 after his teams scored a touchdown.

UCF lost their leading kick returner with Quincy McDuffie graduating, but they do return Hall, who had 350 kick return yards in 2012, and Worton, who returned 25 punts last season.

This season will mark the first year of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), formally the Big East, with the winner of the AAC title receiving an automatic BCS bid. This will be the first time the Knights will be eligible for an automatic BCS bowl bid after spending the past eight seasons in C-USA.

Playing in the AAC also means the return of the “War on I-4” rivalry between the University of South Florida (USF) and UCF. The two rivals, who are connected by Interstate 4, have not faced each other in football since 2008, where USF defeated the Knights 31-24 in overtime. USF leads the rivalry with an undefeated record of 4-0 dating back to 2005.

The Knights open up the 2013 season at home on Thursday, August 29 against Akron, who the Knights defeated 56-14 last year.

Other notable games on UCF’s schedule are an away game against Penn State on September 14, and a home game against South Carolina on September 28. The “War on I-4” will be reignited on Friday, November 29 when USF travels to Orlando looking to improve to 5-0 against their cross-state rivals.

UCF will have their Countdown to Kickoff Luncheon on Thursday, August 15 in the CFE Arena, formerly UCF Arena, with UCF Football FanFest planned for the following week on Friday, August 23.