"I remember when Kemal was coming out of high school, we tried to recruit him [at Purdue]," said Bill Legg, MU's offensive coordinator. "I thought that was a real steal for them when he came out of high school, and he hasn't disappointed."
A.J. Bouye is the veteran cornerback, named C-USA defensive player of the week for forcing two critical turnovers last week in the Knights' 35-17 win over Memphis.
Clayton Geathers, cousin of former UCF defensive end Jarvis Geathers, is the starting strong safety, while Jordan Ozerites is the other starting corner. Both are sophomores.
UCF's defensive coaching staff is brand new, coming in after heard man O'Leary fired defensive coordinator John Skladany after the 2011 campaign slid to 5-7. Jim Fleming is the new coordinator, and his secondary coach is Kirk Callahan, a reserve for the Knights from 2003-06 who is in his first full-time job.
So far, that staff has UCF leading Conference USA in scoring defense, total defense and, yes, pass defense efficiency. In the last six years, the Knights have led C-USA in the latter category four of the last six years.
One figures the Herd will gain much more than the 130 total yards it managed last year in a drenching rain, but coaches and quarterback Rakeem Cato face many of the same issues.
"I think it gets lost in the shuffle at times that there are strengths to every call, offensively and defensively," Legg said. "There are also weaknesses to every call. When you have a mature team, they understand both strengths and weaknesses. They understand how to play to the strengths and cover up the weaknesses.
"[O'Leary] has been there for a while and they've run the same system for a while, and you can see [the results]."
Marshall running back Kevin Grooms has made the College Football Performance Awards National Freshman Performer of the Year watch list, the CFPA organization announced Thursday.
Grooms and Alabama-Birmingham quarterback Austin Brown were the C-USA candidates.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.