UCF vs FIU Key Matchup: In The Trenches
FIU's Defensive Line
FIU had a rough start to the 2013 season. While the defense was awful, loosing control of the game in the first half by giving up 399 yards of offense, the defensive line did give the Panthers some decent production against Maryland.
Defensive tackle, Greg Hickman, is one of a few seniors on FIU's roster and his experience showed. Hickman recorded five solo tackles, two for a loss and forced a fumble that led to the Panther's only touchdown of the day.
Mike Wakefield was the Panther's player of the game in their loosing effort. The sophomore defensive end had three tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery and seven total tackles against the Terps. FIU's coaching staff tested Wakefield at outside linebacker this Spring but then moved him back to his natural position on the defensive line during Fall camp. If the first game was any indication, he is back where he belongs.
The efforts of FIU's front line did little to help the Panthers against Maryland in the season opener but if FIU is going to bounce back from that ugly loss they will need the group to bring their A-game Friday night
UCF's Offensive Line
UCF's front five have talent. Seniors, Justin and Jordan McCray, and junior, Torrian Wilson lead the group. They are a tough bunch that should be able to open holes in the run game and protect Blake Bortles when he drops back.
While they did allow three sacks against Akron, overall the line played well in their first game together. New full-time starters, Joey Grant and Chris Martin, were solid and showed they can be nice pieces to complete the offensive line puzzle.
A good way to gauge an offensive line's success is to look at the production of the skill players around them and the bottom line is that the offense had a great game. Bortles had a career night, throwing for 300 yards for the first time and running back Storm Johnson had a great first start by rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown in three quarters of action.
UCF is a 20+ point favorite in this game. If they are to win as easily as expected, it has to start up front. The Knight's offensive line needs to take charge and make a statement. They need to become a more cohesive unit and improve each week as they gear up for some much tougher competition later in the season.