ORLANDO - As the Knights are now two days from kickoff at Navy, it’s time to take a closer look at what should work offensively against a Navy defense that’s struggled at times in 2021.
Can the Knights come out and run the football directly at Navy? How will Mikey Keene handle his first assignment as the starting quarterback for UCF?
These are but two of many questions that will be discussed in today’s podcast addition of The Daily Knight that can be found directly below, as well as further analysis within this article about key players to watch after that.
Offensive Play Calling
The running game will still be the priority, just as it was with Dillon Gabriel playing quarterback to set up play-action passing. The Knights will want to pound the football against a defensive front that quite simply does not match UCF’s size along the offensive line.
With the return of Matthew Lee at center, UCF’s experienced and massive offensive line should create plenty of running lanes against Navy. It will also be good to have starting guard Cole Schneider back at his normal position and next to Lee, as the two work well together to help create running lanes right up the middle.
Regardless of whether running back Isaiah Bowser plays a single down or not, the UCF running back depth chart is quite deep. The Knights will utilize the running game to make plays, not just protect Keene.
The people that did not yet see Johnny Richardson play will soon know what he’s capable of doing once they witness him burst through a running lane and blow by linebackers at the second level. Navy does not possess the speed to handle Richardson, so look for him to go for big yardage even if he does not carry the football 10 times.
There’s also Trillion Coles and Mark Antony-Richards that will likely see action, and do not discount freshman running back Anthony Williams being inserted into the lineup, too. All of these players are quite capable of helping the Knights to physically wear down the Navy defensive front seven. Then there’s the quarterback running game.
No secret with what Joey Gatewood does best. Look out, here we come! His 6’5”, 221 pound frame running downhill at the Navy defense will create a change of pace, and it will also keep the chains moving. UCF does not need to rely on Gatewood; the Knights need to be balanced.
Gatewood will be a part of the rushing attack, and he’s also capable of throwing play-action passes in this game, too. The red zone should be Gatewood’s prime opportunity to shine, and he could score multiple rushing touchdowns once the Knights move the football inside Navy’s 20 yard line and Gatewood comes into the game. Before Gatewood steps into the lineup, it will be Keene that lines up behind center.
Keene at the Controls
Look for the Knights to be diverse with play calling, especially the passing game. Bootlegs, waggles and rollout passes to keep Keene moving and in a situation to use his legs to pick up yardage on his own or pass the football. As it relates to reading the defense, UCF will be in good hands.
When Keene does throw from the pocket, he will not be your typical freshman. This will be a quarterback that played in an advanced high school system. He understands how to read coverages and grasp concepts that more experienced college signal callers usually know. When Navy makes a mistake, Keene will know where the football needs to go. When Navy provides a defensive look that’s ready for the UCF play call, Keene will understand the need to get out of that play and audible.
With that in mind, UCF quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator GJ Kinne and Head Coach Gus Malzahn will be able to use a bigger play calling sheet than what most coaches would be able to do with a true freshman quarterback making his first start on the road. One key element to add about this unusual freshman quarterback.
Keene’s natural attribute to throw the deep ball should suggest a few deep shots against a navy secondary that has smaller cornerbacks. Navy cornerback Michael McMorris is listed at 5’9”, 173 pounds and the other navy cornerback, Jamal Glenn, is listed at 5’11”, 180 pounds. With that in mind, there’s one player that could see more fade passes as well as a deep ball or two.
Johnson’s Time to Shine
Brandon Johnson is tied for first on the UCF team with 15 receptions, three of which resulted in a touchdown. One of the reasons for his success would be size. Johnson’s 6’2” frame possesses long arms. That’s perfect for back-shoulder fades and one-on-one deep shots. He’s also 195 pounds, allowing him another advantage against Navy’s cornerbacks.
Look for Johnson to be a prime target this Saturday. He’s a good wide receiver to begin with, and the matchup favors the Knights while going against Navy’s smaller cornerbacks.
UCF should be able to move the football against the Navy defense. There are multiple playmakers for the Knights that will allow for matchups to favor UCF, and it will allow the Knights to move the ball consistently this Saturday. The Knights should surpass 30 points against Navy’s defense.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!