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Stanford football 2015: Gameday Q and A with Underdog Dynasty

We decided to do a question and answer piece with the UCF Lead Writer of Underdog Dynasty Chas Short before the match-up Saturday evening on the Farm.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the conversation:

UCF is the third youngest team in the FBS, and has only 9 seniors on the roster, will leadership be an issue this season for the Knights with such a young squad?

Having just dropped the home opener to Florida International University, it's clear that the Knights have many, many, problems. I am not sure that ‘team leadership' is one.

The Knights are, by the way, the only FBS program without a senior at one of the offensive skill positions. But QB Justin Holman is a junior and a second year starter following a successful sophomore campaign. He's reportedly been more of a leader through practice.

The defense will certainly miss Terrance Plummer (now in the NFL on Washington's practice squad). He was a leader and communicator. With so many first year starters on defense, it will be interesting to see who emerges as a leader.

Head Coach George O'Leary has two new coordinators with Brent Key running the offense and Chuck Bresnahan running the defense. What new wrinkles will these new coordinators bring to the Knights?

We really did not see any truly new wrinkles from Brent Key, and in truth I don't expect any. Key is an O'Leary disciple in his eleventh year at UCF. Last year he was offensive line coach and "assistant head coach of offense." Essentially working with former veteran offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe to be able to take over when Taaffe retired. So I am expecting the offense to change little.

I am hoping that it will not stay as disastrously conservative as it was last week, however.

A small note here: we saw some "Wild Knight" (sigh) last week with back-up-QB-turned-WR Nick Patti taking the snap. It wasn't particularly successful and is something we've seen some previous seasons.

As for Bresnahan, whom we hired after he was fired from rival USF last year . . . do you consider "missed tackles" a wrinkle?

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Junior Quarterback Justin Holman has been solid since taking over duties under center in 2014. Will this be the year that Holman continues the brilliance of past Knights QB's and gains the national spotlight?

I think he'll be excellent. He looks improved from a mostly solid year last year (in which he did, however, suffer from some inconsistency and inability to throw a pass with touch). Against FIU, he was 23 of 34 for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers.

But brilliance and national spotlight? Nah. One problem is the lack of a supporting cast and conservative playcalling that will, I suspect, keep him from putting up gaudy numbers. The wide receiver corps has been completely rebooted from last year's senior-laden group (which also included early NFL draft entrant and first round pick Breshad Perriman). The good news is that both Jordan Akins and Tre'Quan Smith proved themselves to be excellent targets for Holman. But since they combined for 18 of the 23 receptions against FIU, it's unclear who else will emerge as a good target for Holman.

And it's not like Holman was perfect against FIU. His ball placement was a bit wacky at times. Still, he's one of the bright spots following a crushing week one loss.

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Who will be the breakout players on offense and defense in 2015 for the Knights?

On offense, both Akins and Smith looked fantastic. They each had 9 receptions for 104 yards. Two of Akins's were for touchdowns. Smith dove for some great catches. They were a revelation. Last year Smith redshirted (and was scout team player of the year). Akins has already nearly doubled his career receiving yardage thanks to this one game. So look for them to be most targeted UCF WRs. (It's unclear who will emerge at WR other than these two - the receiver with the third most receptions for UCF last week was a walk-on).

Before the season I would have said William Stanback, whom I've been a believer in despite a mediocre, injury-plagued sophomore season. But he did not get the start against FIU and averaged a paltry 0.6 yards per carry. Shows what I know.

On defense, look to sophomore linebacker Chequan Burkett who was probably the best player on defense against FIU. He was certainly the most impactful - he forced a fumble by punching the ball out beautifully, which ultimately led to Holman's first touchdown pass on the night to Akins. Burkett also added 6 tackles, including one for a loss. So from the obviously small sample of one game, he looks like a potential breakout guy.

Give us your predictions on where the Knights will be at the end of the season.

Heh. This wasn't a team that I saw winning our division, but if you were to ask me before the season I would have still told you eight games.

Now I'm thinking the Knights win six games. Many of the problems from last week can be fixed, but it's clear that this team is capable of losing to just about anyone on the schedule.