Earlier today, the topic was how to stop Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir. He’s a dynamic pass receiver that sets up many other Broncos with advantageous situations because Shakir is double teamed. Now, it’s onto the other skill position players that the Knights will need to slow down so that they can double team Shakir if they so choose.
UCF will be facing an experienced group of pass catchers that can take pressure off of quarterback Hank Bachmeier, an experienced player himself after starting as a freshman and a sophomore (3,029 yards, 15 passing touchdowns, and eight interceptions through his first 13 games). It’s going to be an interesting chess match in the passing game. Before going into detail about other wide receivers and a tight end, a particular running back needs to be discussed.
Boise State Brings Back Talented Runner
After missing much of last season with a torn MCL in his knee, running back George Holani is back in the Boise State lineup. The redshirt sophomore ran for 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2019 season, and he also averaged 5.3 yards per tote. He’s different from most running backs his age.
Holani will be very patient with not only a blocker in front of him, but a defender as well. Even during a pure one-on-one tackling situation, Holani will sometimes keep a low base and go half speed towards the defender waiting for him to make the first move. He then utilizes the defensive player’s momentum against himself, as Holani sidesteps him or uses a stiff arm to move around the defender. Here’s a look at Holani’s freshman highlights:
UCF defensive players need to make sure they truly go through the full exercise of breaking down, keeping their head up and driving towards Holani when tackling him. He’s adept at making a defender miss in tight spaces.
Also of note, senior running back Andrew Van Buren will return to Boise State. The 6’0”, 228-pound running back will be a big back that does his best work within the tackles. He’s a nice complementary player to Holani. Van Buren rushed for 382 yards and eight touchdowns last season, but only averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
Fifth-Year Senior Wide Receiver Will See Opportunities
With UCF doing anything it can to keep Shakir away from the football, that will open up opportunities for fifth-year senior CT Thomas. A smaller wide receiver at 5’8”, 175-pounds, Thomas can beat a defense with quickness and explosive moves. He does not need a lot of room to operate to make a first down catch. He hauled in 20 receptions for 347 yards and two touchdowns during seven games last fall.
Look for the Broncos to do whatever is necessary to try and get Thomas the football in space. This is especially the case during the first drive of the football game. Without players like Thomas making plays, it will be quite difficult to get Shakir the football; UCF could double team him for much of the game if other Broncos wide receivers do not prove they can make plays in space.
Do Not Forget About the Tight End
With a good running back, top-notch wide receiver, and a slot receiver all capable of making plays, that will likely place UCF linebackers and safeties in one-on-one situations with junior tight end Riley Smith. He’s a big target at 6’5”, 235-pounds. Also from St. Augustine (Fla.) Bartram Trail, Smith will want to do well in front of his friends and relatives.
Last season, Smith accumulated 15 receptions for 155 yards and one touchdown. After being a quarterback earlier in his career, he is going into his second full season as a tight end. It will be interesting to see how Smith performs now that he’s more accustomed to tight end play.
Most importantly for the Knights, simply make sure someone covers the tight end. While basic in concept, tight ends often become overlooked when there are really talented wide receivers and running backs on the field. Know your assignment, do your job! That phrase will be vital against a diverse Boise State passing game and rushing attack.
UCF Game Plan Will be Interesting, and Bethune Will be Key
The Knights will be a multiple defense, but during game one of a season it’s hard to run several different schemes and formations. Further, it’s a new defensive coaching staff and there are several transfers coming to UCF that will play on the defensive side of the football.
For those reasons combined, look for a consistent game plan that the Knights will utilize, and make adjustments in key situations. Forget about formations and play calls for a moment. UCF will need the defensive players feeling confident that each one of them knows his assignment well and can execute that assignment without hesitation. Speed to the football. That’s the name of the game. To that end, look for UCF linebacker Tatum Bethune to be involved in several collisions with Holani and other Boise State skill players.
This will be Bethune’s kind of game as the Broncos will want to run the ball at the Knights, and also challenge UCF with play-action passing where linebackers have to get depth after a play fake. Bethune possesses the athleticism and speed to be a threat in the run game and the passing game for the Knights.
Look for an article about how UCF’s defense can attack Boise State tomorrow evening, as the discussion regarding Boise State at UCF continues all the way through the game on Sep. 2.