By J.C. Carnahan
Local football fans get a sneak peek at the 2013 UCF Knights this weekend at the annual spring game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium.
Much like in years past you can expect to see former UCF players roaming the sidelines while watching the next up-and-coming Knights battle for rosters spots.
Coming off a 10-win season in 2012 there’s some added excitement surrounding the program this time around as the Knights prepare to enter its first season in the newly minted American Athletic Conference.
Following spring practices this month, coaches will get a better idea which players may be able to fill out the depth chart this fall after losing the winningest senior class in UCF history.
The Knights have six players returning on offense that were named to All-Conference USA teams a year ago, but plenty of others will be missed.
The biggest holes to fill will be at running back with the graduation of Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey. Guard Theo Goins, center Jordan Rae, tackle Phil Smith and fullback Billy Giovanetti must also be replaced.
The No. 1 scoring defense and pass defense a year ago in C-USA must replace a crop of major contributors that included free safety Kemal Ishmael, defensive end Troy Davis, and outside linebackers Ray Shipman and Jonathan Davis.
On special teams, punter Jamie Boyle and kick returner Quincy McDuffie are the lone losses in that department.
You never know who may make a name for themselves Saturday by providing the memorable plays or lasting impressions in such an exhibition.
The spring game is free for those under the age of 17 and costs just $5 for adults. Free stadium tours will be given from 10 a.m.-12 noon with gates scheduled to open before the start of the game at 1 p.m.
2013 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame
On Friday UCF will induct five new members into its athletics hall of fame during a sold out ceremony on campus. Inductees this year include Dan Burke (football), Lou Cioffi (men’s soccer), Don Jonas (football coach), Justin Pope (baseball), and the 2003 cheerleading team.
Established in 1998 in order to honor members of past teams who have excelled in intercollegiate athletics at UCF or gained national recognition in athletics following their departure, the hall of fame now features 71 inductees in all.
Here’s a brief look at the Class of 2013:
Dan Burke: Played center and tackle for the inaugural UCF football seasons (1979-82) and was named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American in 1981. Burke went on to play two seasons in the United State Football League in 1984 and 1985 before signing with the expansion Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League in 1991. He has been the head football coach at Palm Bay High School since 1996, where he’s compiled a 169-43 record with two state titles to his credit in 2000 and 2002.
Lou Cioffi: The first president of the Varsity Club upon its creation in 2009, Cioffi is noted as one of the lead fundraisers for the men’s soccer program. He played goalkeeper for the Knights from 1978-79 for hall of fame coach Jim Rudy and currently ranks No. 8 in goals-against-average (1.54), No. 10 in career saves (111) and No. 11 in shutouts (6). Cioffi was also named to the All-South Region and All-Sunshine State Conference teams in 1979, the same year the Knights won the Sunshine State Conference Tournament Championship.
Don Jonas: Long before George O’Leary ever considered walking the sidelines in Orlando, Jonas was starting UCF’s program from the ground up from 1979-81. After initially serving as a volunteer with the Knights, Jonas moved on to become director of the UCF Gridiron Club in 1981. The former Penn State running back and NFL Draft pick briefly played quarterback for the Orlando Panthers and was named most outstanding player in the Canadian Football League in 1971.
Justin Pope: The career leader in wins (32) and strikeouts (335) was selected 28th overall in the 2001 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals following an All-American season in his final year at UCF. In 2001 the two-time All-Atlantic Sun pitcher broke Roger Clemens‘ then-NCAA record by pitching 38.1 consecutive innings without giving up a run. He ranks second all-time at UCF with 49 starts on the mound, No. 3 with three shutouts, No. 5 with 310 innings pitched and No. 7 with an average of 9.73 strikeouts per nine innings from 1999-01.
2003 cheerleading team: The first team to be inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame won the Universal Cheerleading Association College Cheerleading Division IA National Championship 10 years ago, ending an eight-year streak of dominance in the sport by Kentucky. The 2003 cheerleading squad featured 18 members, who combined for a 3.28 grade-point average.
For more on local sports, follow J.C. Carnahan on Twitter @JCCarnz