UCF Running Back Mark-Antony Richards Defines a Modern Running Back

With a powerful frame and athleticism to play several roles, UCF running back Mark-Antony Richards represents an overall style of running back that permeates throughout college football.
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If you watch a few college football games on a random Saturday afternoon, there will be different running back body-types, heights, and weights, but there’s one consistent theme: running backs must be versatile.

The days of a 6’0”, 230-pound tailback that just blasted up the middle and not being a pass receiver out of the backfield concluded already. The 2021 version of a college running back demands more. With the new coaching staff arriving in Orlando to lead UCF, Head Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff also brought over a running back from Auburn that exemplifies several traits that make him an intriguing running back for the Knights.

Mark-Antony Richards

Vitals: 6’1”, 215-pounds

High School: Wellington (Fla.) High School

Former College: Auburn

Background: A highly touted high school running back recruit from South Florida, Richards took official visits to Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Penn State and Miami before selecting Auburn. He earned a redshirt during the 2019 season and then played a backup role for the Tigers during the 2020 season. After Coach Malzahn took the UCF Head Coaching position, Richards decided to transfer back to his home state and join his former Head Coach.

Richards is a Talented Football Player First

UCF fans should be thrilled about Richards joining the Knights for a number of reasons, but the first aspect to know about his skills would be the fact that he’s a well-rounded football player. He’s a guy that could play a strong safety or linebacker position and be fine, and he could even be an H-Back in the right offense.

During his prep career, Richards played both sides of the football and was a big hitter. He could have easily played inside or outside linebacker in college and been an asset to a defense like UCF that relishes speed on ‘D’. As a running back, his high school and Auburn film provided examples of a very similar style of play.

He’s physical, played through the whistle on both sides of the football, and found a variety of ways to create big plays with his feet as well as his strength and effort. He even ran down a breakaway running back and knocked the football loose and caused a turnover. That type of effort is why he was one of South Florida’s highest ranked running back recruits. At UCF, however, he’s going to focus those efforts towards one position.

With Coach Malzahn’s downhill power-spread offensive approach, there’s no question Richards was recruited for a primary purpose and that would be to tote the football between the A and B gaps to set up play-action passing and to help signal caller Dillon Gabriel earn as many one-on-one opportunities with his wide receiver core as possible. Richards’ and his between-the-tackles bruiser mentality will also help the other UCF skill players from a schematic standpoint, and it’s also going to help transition the UCF offense into something unique because of how he can lead by example.

Battling for Playing Time

UCF was fortunate to have quality running back depth in 2020, and now there’s an influx of talented running backs coming to Orlando again that will mix with the current roster. Richards will be a part of a group that must scratch and claw for playing time; carries must be earned.

Nobody should doubt Richards. His film speaks for itself. Now he must go through the rigors of fall camp just like everyone else. It’s just that his past displayed such effort that it’s quite difficult to imagine him not making a splash in a UCF uniform. How the depth chart shakes out will be uncertain until UCF plays Boise State during game one, but expect Richards to be one of the players to earn playing time and carries.

With senior Bentavious Thompson coming back for his final season in a Knights’ uniform, he will certainly be competing with a quality running back for playing time. There are several other running backs to compete with as well. It’s a crowded running back room, but competition breeds success. That’s where Richards’ playing style and effort likely already came into play.

This is the time of year, right before fall camp, that players must be ready to grind. UCF has a running back transfer that’s going to help push his position group. That’s who Richards is and it’s going to make a difference this fall.

Expectations and Predictions

It would not be surprising if Richards played a significant role and/or started at running back this fall. He’s extremely talented and fits what UCF wants to accomplish within the running game. Most importantly, he should be used in a multitude of formations and situations.

Whether carrying the football or catching swing passes, Richards should be very involved. As a prediction, look for Richards to gain over 500 yards rushing and score five touchdowns or more. As a receiver, he should be over 10 catches and over 100 yards, too. Overall, UCF Football is lucky to have this young man in the program and the Knights will be giving the football to a powerful and hard-charging running back each time he enters the UCF lineup.

You will find me on Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation

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