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Boise State Offense Versus the UCF Defense: Play Calls, Players and Matchups to Watch

Time to talk matchups, players and strategy, as the UCF defense will go against a talented Boise State offensive unit.

After discussing Boise State’s best overall offensive player and a few of the other Broncos that figure to be important aspects of the Sep. 2 matchup with UCF, here are a few players and matchups that should be fun to monitor during the game.

There are so many subtleties to keep track of it’s a smorgasbord of information. From that buffet, here are a few items to be watching when Boise State takes the field against the UCF defense.

Defending Khalil Shakir Means Being Multiple with Play Calls and Players

Like most defenses, the Knights will probably provide a plethora of pre-snap and post-snap looks for not only Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier, but his favorite target in wide receiver Khalil Shakir. While not trying to be too technical, consider the following. At any point and time, it’s fair to assume UCF will play press coverage and play man, quarters coverage and shade a safety towards Shakir’s side of the field, run cover two, cover two with man under, or even a coverage like cover six when in dime personnel. Those are some of the traditional coverages seen in college football (yes, there are many).

Boise State WR Khalil Shakir (#2) and QB Hank Bachmeier

Boise State WR Khalil Shakir (#2) and QB Hank Bachmeier

Now, add in the aspect of UCF’s defense operating from multiple defensive alignments, potentially speaking, and it can confuse an opposing offense no matter how experienced it may be (Boise State certainly qualifies as experienced at QB and WR). Which UCF defensive back(s) line up in front of Shakir and go one-on-one with him is hard to say, and it’s also an example of how UCF can play cat and mouse games with Boise State. Size will also play an important role versus Shakir.

The Knights have some of the biggest cornerbacks in college football with all the UCF cornerbacks being listed at 6’0” or taller. Rotating a few different cornerbacks that can be physical at the line of scrimmage should be expected. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to what style of coverage UCF will use. The same can be said for the specific cornerbacks assigned to cover Shakir. 

Will it be Marco Domio, Davonte Brown, Corey Thornton, Jarvis Ware or another Knights’ cornerback? Perhaps a combination? It’s game No. 1. Everyone will see on Sep. 2 as defending a dynamic playmaker can be accomplished many different ways.

Adjustments to Turn Pass Rushers Loose

There’s a reason that Inside The Knights continues to mention several different defensive linemen within various articles. Reports have been really good about what’s available along the defensive line. The defensive line should actually be as good as any unit on the team.

Sure, the Knights will blitz some, but overall the talent along the defensive line will provide for the majority of snaps to not include blitzing. The defensive coaching staff does have the ability to move a few players around to create interesting matchups as well. Most likely just simple adjustments; nothing over the top.

Moving a defensive tackle to nose guard during an obvious passing situation, or possibly moving a defensive end to three technique (defensive tackle) when the Broncos will be likely to pass, both could see UCF utilize many different personnel packages and alignments. There’s enough defensive front seven talent to adjust when needed. One player should be most interesting, and that’s because of his unusual blend of size and athleticism.

Davis Should Lead the Way

If you focus on any one UCF defender against Boise State, it should be Kalia Davis, the fifth-year senior defensive tackle. He’s extremely motivated to get back on the gridiron after missing the 2020 season while sitting out due to COVID-19 concerns. He’s also a player that UCF can do numerous play calls with and fans should expect to see Davis line up at different positions.

Kalia Davis, Defensive Tackle, UCF

Kalia Davis, Defensive Lineman, UCF

In fact, Inside The Knights will be tracking the specific positions that Davis lines up before the snap of the football, i.e. outside shade at defensive end in a 3-4 or zero technique as the nose guard in a 3-3-5, etc. This is not one’s ordinary 6’2”, 310-pound defensive tackle. He’s capable of creating multiple tackles for loss, and might do so by way of playing along the interior or being a defensive end.

With Davis being a valuable moving piece, that also allows other defenders to play multiple roles and/or just play downhill. Davis will be one reason why it will be really fun to track how the defensive line attacks the Boise State offense.

Where’s Big Kat?

Little question that Boise State will monitor where Big Kat Bryant lines up before each snap. He’s a talented edge rusher with the ability to change a game with natural athleticism, but he’s also capable of doing so by playing standing up as an outside linebacker or as a traditional 4-3 defensive end.

How UCF moves Bryant around, as well as the specific assignments that he will be provided with will be interesting. Although, it could be as simple as allowing the talented Georgia native to make his own decision about how he wants to come off the corner and rush the passer or chase down the running back. Literally, just allow him to ‘go’ after the snap of the football. Some players just need that freedom, and the way Bryant plays exemplifies that thought process.

Fun Matchup to Watch: Boise State offensive tackle John Ojukwu will be a player on many award lists by the conclusion of the 2021 season. He is 6’6”, 310-pounds and anchors the Broncos offensive line. Watching him against Bryant will be entertaining as it's sure to be a fierce competition. 

Other Matchups of Interest

Inside Running Game: While the passing game always receives quite a bit of fan interest, the play inside the A gap will also be important. The Broncos will try to run downhill to set up the passing game. That begins with running back George Holani.

 Because he’s coming off an injury, it’s hard to project how he will perform, nor will it be easy to precisely figure out how the UCF inside linebackers come after him (playing off the line of scrimmage, crowding the line, etc.). Do know that it will be a very important responsibility to stop Holani and the inside rushing attack, however, as it sets up what Bachmeier does best and that’s throwing play-action passes.

Look for starting linebackers Tatum Bethune and Eriq Gilyard to key on Holani for at least the early portion of the game while the Broncos try to establish the run. Being aggressive to the A gap will be a big part of that responsibility. If the Knights take away Boise State’s interior running game, it’s going to be much harder for the Broncos to operate play-action passes. 

Eriq Gilyard (10) is ready to make a tackle.

Eriq Gilyard (#10), Linebacker, UCF

More specifically, the Knights could be very aggressive and commit some run blitzes in the first quarter. Stopping the inside running game is truly that important.

The UCF Safety Unit: There must be a change from last season with all those big plays allowed falling on the entire defense being the focal point. With that stated, safeties are commonly responsible for making sure other defensive players line up correctly, know when and where another player should go after the snap, and just be leaders for the secondary and sometimes the entire defense.

While it’s not a specific matchup to watch, do understand that if Boise State struggles to hit big passing plays much of the reason will have to do with safety play. There are times when safeties do their best work while nobody pays attention to them. That's because they take away possible open wide receivers down the field and the ball is never thrown their way. Thus, Bachmeier may check down to a running back, throw the football out of bounds or take a sack. That’s real defense. That’s winning football.

You will find me on Twitter @fbscout_Florida and @UCF_FanNation

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