CFT preseason No. 22: UCF

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2010 record: 11-3, 7-1 (1st C-USA East; won conference title game)

2010 bowl: 10-6 win over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl

2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 21st/20th

Coach: George O’Leary, seventh year; 45-44 overall, 33-23 conference

Offensive coordinator: Charlie Taaffe, third year

2010 offensive rankings: 31st, scoring offense (32.1 ppg); 65th, total offense (374 ypg); 26th, rushing offense (187.6 ypg); 87th, passing offense (186.4 ypg)

Defensive coordinator: John Skladany, first year

2010 defensive rankings: 8th, scoring defense (17.1 ppg); 15th, total defense (315.4 ypg); 8th, rushing defense (108.4 ypg); 41st, passing defense (207 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: 6

Returning defensive starters: 4

Location: Orlando, Fla.

Stadium: Bright House Networks Stadium (Grass; 45,323)

Last league title: 2010

2011 schedule: [view]

2011 roster: [view]

2010 statistics: [view]

Snapshot: The Knights’ 2011 season could go a couple of different ways depending on the answers to a few questions.

A stifling defense lost several starters from a year ago; will the recruiting strides George O’Leary & Company have made over the past couple of years be enough to fill those holes, especially at linebacker? Quarterback Jeff Godfrey was phenomenal for a freshman in 2011, but can he take his game to the next level and avoid a sophomore malaise that affects some players at his position after opponents get the book on him? Arguably three of the Knights’ toughest conference games — SMU, Southern Miss and East Carolina — are all on the road. Given that they’ll be a younger team than they were in 2010 — they lost 19 seniors — can their talent belie their youth?

Our answers: probably, yes and yes, thus leading to O’Leary pulling in another conference title, another double-digit season in wins and another nationally-ranked season.

Make-or-break game: Sept. 23 at BYU

It’s a stretch to call this game make or break — that’s normally reserved for a conference game. However, this road contest may be a significant measuring stick for O’Leary as the trip to Provo could provide a litmus test for what may be down the road for the aforementioned three conference road games. Handling a quality opponent such as the Cougars in the fourth week of the season would bode well and perhaps give a little battle-tested confidence to the young Knights.

Heisman hopeful: Godfrey

As a true freshman, Godfrey completed nearly 67 percent of his 238 passes for almost 2,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. The eight interceptions might cause a little consternation, but, again, it was his first year as a starter at the collegiate level. Godfrey improved measurably from his first start of the year — the third game — through the “upset” bowl win over Georgia. It might be a year early for any type of Heisman hype, but Godfrey will likely plant the seeds for a 2012 run by building on the outstanding first year this season.

Postseason projection: Liberty Bowl

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

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Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.

Mel Tucker reels in 3-star RB who delayed signing after Dantonio retirement

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Mel Tucker secured his first signee over the weekend, which is impressive since he didn’t take the job until after the 2020 signing periods.

Jordon Simmons, a 3-star running back from Powder Springs, Ga., committed to Michigan State back in October but did not sign in the early period or the late period.

After Mark Dantonio‘s retirement the night before the February signing period, Simmons announced he would not sign with the Spartans the following day.

“Due to the unforeseen retirement of Coach Dantonio and after discussing things with my family, I have decided to delay my signing with Michigan State University until further notice,” he tweeted the night of Dantonio’s announcement. “I love everything that Michigan State has to offer and I appreciate the love and support that the fan base has shown me. However, with the uncertainty of the MSU program I have decided to take some time to weight out my options and think about where I will spend the next 4 years.”

After taking a couple weeks to consider his options and get to know his new head coach, Simmons inked with the Spartans once and for all.

The Simmons saga shows that, should players obtain a free release to play elsewhere if their head coach leaves in between the time they sign scholarship papers and their freshman seasons, most of those players would still wind up at their original school simply because they’d be out of options elsewhere.

Central Michigan CB Kyron McKinnie-Harper facing multiple charges, including pair of felonies

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Central Michigan football is the latest FBS program to face an off-field issue invoicing one of its players.

Friday, Jim McElwain announced that Kyron McKinnie-Harper had been indefinitely suspended from the Central Michigan football team for violating unspecified team rules. The school’s student newspaper subsequently reported that a warrant was issued for McKinnie-Harper’s arrest Feb. 13.

Per court records, McKinnie-Harper is facing one count of using a computer to commit a crime, one count of unauthorized computer access, one count of computer fraud and three counts of larceny by conversion. One of the larceny counts and the computer access charge are felonies. The others are misdemeanors.

“According to court records, police are looking at his Oct. 27 online activities,,” the paper wrote. No further details of what led to the charges has been detailed.

As for what type of prison time the cornerback could be facing if convicted? From the report:

McKinnie-Harper is charged with one felony larceny count of more than $1,000, less than $20,000. Conviction could result in 5 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. He also faces two misdemeanor larceny counts of $200, less than $1,000. A conviction is punishable by 1 year in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property. Using a computer to commit a crime is a felony that could result in 4-to-10 years in prison.

As a true freshman, McKinnie-Harper emerged as a starting corner the last half of the 2019 season. An unspecified injury kept the defensive back out of the bowl game in which Central Michigan football played following the 2019 campaign.

“The coach would not elaborate on the injury and McKinnie-Harper did not travel with the team, though other injured teammates did go to Albuquerque,” wrote.

In his first season with Central Michigan football, McKinnie-Harper led the Chips in passes defensed with 10 and forced fumbles with two.

Nebraska WR Darien Chase cites struggles with mental health, depression in entering transfer portal

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Nebraska football added five wide receivers as part of its 2020 recruiting class. Not surprisingly, that group has seen a potential shakeup.

Utilizing his personal Twitter account, Darien Chase has taken the first step in leaving Nebraska football by announcing his entry into the NCAA transfer database. In the post, Chase revealed that he has “struggled with mental health and depression” for years and needs to transfer in order to be closer to family as he deals with his issues.

“I’ve lost a lot of family members and I have struggled with mental health and depression for the past 6 or 7 years and these events put me in a place I can never fall to again, and it is the best decision for me and my family for me to transfer closer to home,” the receiver wrote. “This decision has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make because it has nothing to do with the program or football, and there is truly no place like Nebraska, and I’ll always love GBR and all the love I’ve gotten just in the past year.”

Chase was a three-star 2019 signee. He was the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Washington.

Prior to committing to, then signing with Nebraska football, Chase had received scholarship offers from, among others, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah and Boise State. He took official visits to the latter two schools.

As a true freshman, Chase played in four games. That will allow him to take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

In that limited action, Chase caught one pass for 13 yards.

In addition to adding a handful of players at his position, Chase also saw offensive coordinator and receivers coach Troy Walters, who was his primary recruiter, leave the Nebraska football program last month.