He has speed. He has pizzazz. He has ability.

But is Drico Johnson playing on the wrong side of the ball?

Johnson, a senior from Orlando, snatched a lateral out of the air and ran 30 yards for a touchdown, then returned an interception 86 yards for another in UCF’s victory last week over Tulane. Teammate Shaquill Griffin returned an interception 33 yards for a score to highlight a big week by the team’s defensive backs.

“I feel like we’re way closer than we were last year,” said Johnson, who ran the fourth-longest interception return back for a touchdown in school history Saturday — an 86-yard pick six.

“I feel like we didn’t really have too many leaders to step and lead, but we can’t talk about last year, it’s this year now. And I feel great about my team. We want to win out and be at a bowl game.”

Johnson was named this week’s Bronco Nagurski Award winner for his efforts.

Now comes a game against Cincinnati. The Bearcats had their way with UCF, 52-7, a year ago. Cincinnati threw for 489 yards against the Knights’ secondary.

“Drico is an example of our defense,” head coach Scott Frost told the Orlando Sentinel. “We have got a bunch of seniors that are starving to show people what they can do. This year has given them an opportunity to prove what kind of players they are. The entire secondary made a big difference tonight.”

The Knights are now within one win of bowl eligibility.

“We have to remain hungry,” senior safety Johnson said. “We’ve been to plenty of bowl games since I’ve been here, but it’ll be a great feeling to go out my senior year in a bowl game, spend a couple of extra weeks with my teammates before I leave. And that would be great to be around.”

UCF secondary coach Travis Fisher was pleased with the effort.

“As a coach, it couldn’t get any better,” Fisher said. “As a coach, I was feeling like the big dog on the sideline. It’s hard to coach the secondary and get guys ready to play and make sure everybody in that room, not just the ones that played, but, you know, I played my whole group in that game and they made plays, the whole group made plays .… I think it’s important as a defensive back coach to make sure that everybody in the room is ready on game day and giving it all on game day and just having prepared. Tulane has a great football team, take my hat off to those coaches and how they’re turning that program around over there.”

Saturday’s game is at noon.


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