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Hanshew: UCF offense may show Herd more versatility

Oct. 30, 2009 @ 12:43 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Yes, the offense has been tweaked under coordinator Charlie Taaffe, but Marshall University football can expect more of the same from UCF's offense.

This is a no-nonsense approach under Knights head coach George O'Leary. Predicated on defense and special teams, UCF contends for conference championships with a modest offensive approach.

Still, Taaffe, a veteran offensive manipulator, has expanded the approach. Marshall must be aware of more than smashmouth football behind a power back Sunday night. The Thundering Herd (5-3, 3-1 Conference USA) and UCF (4-3, 2-2) kick off at 8:15 p.m. at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando. ESPN will televise the game.

Sophomore tailback Brynn Harvey ranks No. 32 nationally, averaging more than 90 rushing yards a game. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back fits the mold of his predecessors, producing between the tackles.

Opposed to recent seasons, however, is versatility. Quarterback Brett Hodges manages a varied attack featuring five receivers with at least 10 catches. A.J. Guyton, who leads the Knights with 296 receiving yards, threw for and caught a touchdown in last week's 49-7 dismantling at Rice.

"Charlie Taaffe (offensive coordinator) has done a good job adding a couple elements that they haven't had in years past and it has opened up the offense," Snyder said. "We have our work cut out for us, but I think our guys are excited and ready for the challenge.

"It should be a really good football game.

"He has added a little bit of option, which is his background. He has added the quarterback sweep that they are running now. They are taking more shots down the field.

"Those are the three things I can think of off the top of my head."

Still, UCF annually contends for Conference USA championships behind a punishing offense, along with dominant defensive and special teams play. Taaffe has added wrinkles, but UCF remains UCF under O'Leary, a proven head coach.

"It is a little bit different than what we saw last year," Snyder said. "They are still going to pound the ball on the ground. They have a big back and a good offensive line.

"They are still UCF and George O'Leary will keep it that way. But they have indeed added a couple of new elements to their offense."

AS FOR O'LEARY ...: O'Leary is staring at a much different Thundering Herd offense compared to last season. New under center is Brian Anderson, along with a revamped wide receiver corps.

Still, the veteran coach understands that containing tailback Darius Marshall, the nation's No. 2 rusher, and all-Conference USA tight end Cody Slate represent priorities.

"They're getting a lot of touches to everybody and they've got some great individual athletes," O'Leary said, referencing newcomers such as Antavious Wilson, Chuck Walker and Jamal Wilson. "They're blocking great up front and the quarterback (Brian Anderson) is making great decisions. He's using all of his receivers and then you obviously have the two great players (Darius Marshall and Slate) that you have to be aware of."

Anthony Hanshew covers Marshall football for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached at 304-526-2766. His e-mail address is hanshew@herald-dispatch.com.

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