Brandon Marshall, seen here practicing with UCF at the University of Hawaii this week for the Hawaii Bowl, caught 63 passes for a team-high 985 yards this season. A year earlier, as a safety, he led the Golden Knights with 51 tackles.
UCF’s Marshall makes big switch with ease
The Golden Knights’ top receiver was their top tackler just a year earlier
It's not often a player leads a team in tackles one year and receiving yards the next. But such is the case for the UCF's Brandon Marshall.
Who: Nevada (8-3) vs. UCF (8-4)
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: 3:30 p.m. tomorrow
Radio: KKEA (1420-AM)
Ticket info: 548-2695
The senior wide receiver leads the Golden Knights this season with 985 yards receiving with an average of 15.6 yards per catch. These stats are impressive, considering that Marshall spent seven games last season playing free safety after six defensive backs went down with injuries -- and he still managed to lead the team with 51 total tackles.
Marshall and the Golden Knights play Nevada (8-3) in tomorrow's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at 3:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound liberal studies major has used the opportunity of playing on the opposite side of the ball as a tool to improve his receiving skills.
"It worked out for the better because I got to see what the defense tries to do to the receivers," Marshall said. "So, sometimes in the game, I see things I used to do (while at free safety) and it makes my reads and routes a little better.
"A lot of my success has come from my playing free safety last year. It made me a more physical receiver, which helps me a lot because I'm a big guy, so it puts a strain on the defensive backs."
The role reversal experienced by Marshall has coincided with UCF's turnaround from a record of 0-11 last season to 8-4 this year.
"It's a great job done by our team, just staying together," Marshall said. "When you have a team that loses a lot of ballgames, it's hard to stay together and keep the determination and motivation there to continue practicing and getting better. That's one of the reasons why we're so successful, because we used that time to better ourselves."
Despite the winning record, the Golden Knights are still left with the bitter taste of defeat after losing the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 3 to Tulsa 44-27. In the loss, Marshall hauled in seven passes for 109 yards.
He knows that a Hawaii Bowl victory would allow his team to finish the season on a positive note.
"We can't go out like that," he said. "This is what football is all about. We're excited to be in Hawaii, but we're not forgetting our focus, which is to win."
The future for the Winter Park, Fla., native is still uncertain in terms of football, but UCF head coach George O'Leary is confident that Marshall, who will be graduating after four years in school, will be successful.
"Brandon is a very versatile athlete, and he's done a lot for us," O'Leary said. "He's a guy who can make plays, and he's a big body out there. I want to see him graduate and get his degree. Hopefully, good things will happen to him after his career here, and he'll be able to play on Sundays."
Running the gauntlet: At the conclusion of yesterday's practice, the Golden Knights formed a "gauntlet" of underclassmen, congratulating the seniors as they ran through the gap in celebration of the final collegiate practice of their careers.
Sheraton extends agreement to '09
In a press conference yesterday, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts announced that it will remain as the title sponsor of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl through 2009. The announcement was made by Pete Derzis, senior vice president for ESPN Regional Television, which holds broadcast rights to the Christmas Eve game.
The agreement also includes the addition of a participating team from the Pac-10 Conference to compete against a Western Athletic Conference team in 2006 and 2008. A Conference USA team will compete against a WAC team in 2007 and 2009.