ORLANDO - Fresh off Gus Malzhan’s first regular season as UCF’s Head Coach, where the Knights went 8-4 on the season and 5-3 in conference play, Inside The Knights has begun analyzing the position groups to get a jumpstart on what to expect for next year.
One of the deepest positions on the UCF roster is the running back position. The offense for the Knights is predicated around their ability to run the football, so a strong running back room is a must. Here’s what’s next for the Knights at running back in 2022, as well as a look back at the 2021 regular season.
The Isaiah Bowser Effect
Does Bowser come back for a fifth-year? This question must be answered to better understand what UCF will do at the running back position in 2022. Technically, due to the COVID-19 2020 season, the NCAA is allowing an extra year of eligibility for players. Therefore, Bowser could technically return to the Knights next season.
Despite missing five-plus games with injuries, Bowser has 124 rushes for 548 yards and seven touchdowns, the last of which leads the Knights heading into bowl preparation. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Most importantly, he’s the best all-around running back because he’s good in pass protection and the passing game.
His experience and savviness is helping him to better help UCF quarterback Mikey Keene and other players on the UCF offense. If he does not return in 2022, it is going to be interesting to see how the following players battle for playing time.
Richardson is the Knights leading rusher this year racking up 693 yards on 101 carries and three touchdowns. His 6.9 yard per carry average is impressive, too. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, leading all running backs with 22 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson is known more of an outside runner at just 5’7”, 170 pounds. However, he is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Further, his ability to churn out yards between the tackles, despite his weight, is commendable. UCF fans would be wise to expect him to be heavily involved in the Knights offense once again next season.
Antony-Richards, a redshirt sophomore and Auburn transfer, seems to be the Knights go-to short yardage running back late in the year after fellow transfer Isaiah Bowser got injured. Richards totaled 309 yards rushing this year on just 48 carries for five touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per tote.
He also has eight receptions for 76 yards. With the way Coach Malzahn likes to pound the football, expect Richards to have an expanded role next season with the chance that the Knights lose Bowser to the NFL.
Coles, a redshirt junior who was passed up on the depth chart by the aforementioned Richardson and Antony-Richards, carried the ball 32 times this year for a total of 184 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also added six catches for 31 yards and another score.
The Knights have former three-star recruit and true freshman Anthony Williams waiting in the wings to go along with touted freshman Jordan McDonald, so it looks like Coles’ snaps could be dwindling.
The Knights have at least two other players on the roster at the position that will be vying for reps when spring comes around. Those names include redshirt sophomore Damarius Good and RJ Harvey, the latter also a redshirt sophomore from nearby Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater. Harvey transferred in from Virginia last year, and he’s recovering from an ACL injury suffered in fall camp of 2021.