Team preview: UCF

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(All information as of June 20, 2007)


After a landmark 2005 season in which UCF coincided its first season in Conference USA with its first bowl appearance, the Knights took a step backward last year. A young but veteran team couldn't handle success and couldn't duplicate the turnovers and breaks it created a year before, and a lackluster 4-8 season was the result.

Close games that went UCF's way a year earlier went the other way in '06. Narrow September losses at home to USF and Southern Miss started the Knights off 1-3. Coach George O'Leary's crack-the-whip tactics didn't catch on, and the Knights never recovered, even in a diluted C-USA East.

Heading into 2007, UCF must replace two of its top playmakers, receiver Mike Walker and quarterback Steven Moffett, and there are no sure-fire candidates on the roster.
Nevertheless -- as always -- optimism abounds in Orlando.

Second-year athletic director Keith Tribble is directing a re-branding of the athletics program in conjunction with this year's opening of two major facilities, Bright House Networks Stadium and a convocation center. The once-Golden Knights are now just the Knights. Gone are gold helmets. In are white ones.

More important to Tribble and O'Leary, gone are Saturday treks from campus to play in downtown Orlando at the aging 65,000-seat Florida Citrus Bowl. It is a campus stroll to a new 45,000-seat stadium built for only $47 million. The stadium was still under construction late in the summer, but school officials were confident it would be finished in time for a designated Sept. 15 opening against Texas.

Yes, Texas.
Therein lies the rub of 2007.