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Critical Questions: 2022 UCF Passing Game, Part II

The following Knights must step up for the passing game to be successful.
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The UCF Knights could produce an explosive passing game this fall. For that to happen, there needs to be a blend of players coming together and working well, plus the UCF coaches finding creative ways to get the football into the hands of the playmakers.

Here’s the second aspect of a two-part look at UCF’s passing game, with the first installment being right here.

4) How well does UCF take advantage of tight end Kemore Gamble’s unique athletic gifts?

Gamble was a part of the Florida program (2017-2021) for five seasons, but did not make a big statistical impact during his first three years in a Gators’ uniform. In 2020, however, Gamble’s production and playing time went up. He caught 10 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns despite playing behind college football’s best tight end in Kyle Pitts.

2021 saw Gamble takeover the starting tight end position, leading to him producing 31 receptions, 414 yards and four touchdowns. Gamble should now be considered the type of tight end that changes a passing game, and it’s from a variety of positions as well.

Kemore Gamble UCF

Kemore Gamble gives UCF an athletic tight end that can be utilized in many ways.

Look for him to line up at a traditional inline tight end position, H-back, and even out wide. His athleticism and natural ball skills give the Knights a matchup that defenses struggle to find a player with the size and athleticism to match him.

Further, Gamble could be the go-to option in many situations. With Ryan O’Keefe, Kobe Hudson, Jaylon Griffin, Amari Johnson, and Javon Baker among the experienced receivers now on the roster, it’s going to be hard for defensive coordinators to double Gamble. Advantage to the Knights.

As long as Gamble has a cohesiveness with the UCF quarterbacks, there’s really no reason to believe he cannot have similar numbers for UCF in 2022 as he did for Florida in 2021.

5) Will the UCF passing attack fully take advantage of Johnny Richardson’s pass catching skills?

It’s hard not to be excited when running back Johnny Richardson takes a handoff. The same should be said for catching a pass, too.

Last season, Richardson was third on the team with 25 receptions, leading to 226 yards receiving and one touchdown. He’s now a junior, so will the UCF coaching staff find more ways to place the football in Richardson’s hands?

The UCF running back stable is loaded. That means finding ways to get really talented players like Mark Antony-Richards onto the field when Isaiah Bowser is out of the lineup, but still keeping Richardson involved in the offense as well. Might be a little tricky at times, but playing Richardson in two-back sets and even moving him to the slot could open up some opportunities.

Even when Bowser is out of the lineup, UCF has plenty of options at running back.

Even when Bowser is out of the lineup, UCF has plenty of options at running back.

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No matter how UCF goes about it, UCF must pass Richardson the football even more than it did last season. He’s dynamic, reliable, and also versatile.

There are simply too many ways for him to impact a football game for the UCF coaching staff not to pass him the ball more often. Look for Richardson to exceed 30 receptions this next season, making him a weapon teams have to be ready for even if he’s lined up in the slot.

6) Will there be the over-the-top bombs that UCF fans are accustomed to?

This is the category that’s the most unknown. Will the new wide receivers develop a cohesiveness with quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and/or Mikey Keene? While it’s difficult to project which receiver busts out and is the primary deep threat when it’s a talented group of pass catchers, a few predictions.

O’Keefe is not going to see quite as much double coverage this season, and that will allow more opportunities to throw him the football over the top. Look for his yards per catch to grow because of less double teams, and he could reach 10 touchdowns on the year.

Between Griffin, Hudson and Baker, there will be more jump balls thrown down the field. That’s a group of strong receivers capable of holding their own during 50-50 ball situations. Might see some of that will Gamble as well.

Ryan O'Keefe's speed will be hard for defensive backs to counter, helping the Knights score touchdowns over the top.

Ryan O'Keefe's speed will be hard for defensive backs to counter, helping the Knights score touchdowns over the top.

There’s also the speedy senior, Johnson, who will certainly be able to outrun most defenders. He’s due for a deep ball over the top this year, maybe two or three.

Finally, the youngsters could emerge in this category. The speed and elusiveness of Quan Lee and Xavier Townsend coming to Orlando, look for both of the former Sunshine State prep talents to make a few big plays of their own.

It’s just finding room in the rotation. Perhaps it becomes situational or possibly because of injury, but one or both of Lee and Townsend have the wheels to run by defenders and bypass the secondary on their way for six.

The long and lanky Tyler Griffin could end up as a boundary receiver, but he’s yet another freshman receiver with the speed to make plays down the field. At roughly 6’4” and 200 pounds, Griffin is also a player that can win jump ball situations.

2023 UCF Commitment List

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