UCF safety Geathers steps into bigger role

UCF safety Clayton Geathers is adjusting to two different roles this spring. He has switched to the free safety spot, replacing standout Kemal Ishmael.

But perhaps bigger -- he is now the leader of the secondary, a role he is starting to fully embrace. For a quiet guy, becoming a more vocal leader has been a big adjustment, especially since he always relied on Ishamel to be the one to speak up.

"It’s a new role for me," Geathers said in a recent phone interview. "I’m not a verbal guy. I lead by my actions. But all the young guys, they’re looking at me as a leader. I don’t know how it feels to be a leader, but I am helping the young guys, and I’m starting to be more verbal. I learned a lot from Kemal, and I'm starting to follow in his footsteps."

So what did he learn from Ishmael that he is doing now?

"I have taken the young guys under my wings. We schedule meetings, go over plays, watch film without coach," Geathers said. "If I see a young guy down, I go and motivate him. I want to be a big brother to the young guys. Just opening my mouth more, getting my opinions out there, speaking up in the room. Last year, I had Kemal. Kemal did all the talking. I showed my leadership from my actions."

Those actions certainly are ones to follow, as Geathers started every game last season and finished second on the team with 117 tackles, also breaking up five passes and forcing two fumbles. Though he is a junior, Geathers has started every game of his career, and is the most experienced player in the secondary.

Not only does UCF have to replace Ishmael, starting cornerback A.J. Bouye is also gone. Brandon Alexander does return, but the Knights will be relying on younger guys like sophomore, Nicco Whigham, freshmen Jeremy Davis and D.J. Killings, and converted receiver Drico Johnson (also a freshman).

"We’re still growing up," Geathers said. "We’ve got a lot of guys we have to replace, and we’re working together to get better each day. It’s a slow process. I feel like it’s going well. We’re trying to build this chemistry the defense had last year, so we're taking it one day at time and getting better."