Just 16 days away, UCF will host Boise State under the lights in the Bounce House. The Knights are facing a unique opponent with Boise State, as the Broncos boast offensive and defensive talent that can cause problems for teams. The Knights will need some of their offensive and defensive skill position talent to step up their game to provide UCF with a good chance to come out victorious.
The following represents skill position players, whether offensive or defensive, and nothing more. It’s also about matching a top UCF player against a top Boise State player.
Knights Need a Big Performance from a Running Back
It’s no secret that UCF will be transitioning to an uptempo power-spread offensive attack under the direction of UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn. To keep the football away from Boise State signal caller Hank Bachmeier and his offensive weapons like big-time wide receiver Khalil Shakir and running back George Holani, utilizing a good running game will be key for UCF.
Will it be Isaiah Bowser, or perhaps Mark Antony-Richards or Johnny Richardson that makes the biggest impact during the first game? Best guess would be Antony-Richards because of his familiarity with Coach Malzahn’s system when he was playing for him at Auburn.
The 6’1”, 215-pound running back is a great fit for the offensive scheme that the Knights operate, and his between the tackles ability to see opportunities develop away from the intended running lane yet still make a good cut and run to daylight will be very important. Further, Antony-Richards’ speed could pop a long run.
A Wide Receiver Needs to Emerge Beyond Jaylon Robinson
There’s no doubt Jaylon Robinson will be a focal point for UCF against Boise State, but he could see quite a few double teams on Sep. 2. The Knights need to find ways to not only distribute the football to a really talented wide receiver core, there also needs to be at least one more wide receiver that plays terrific and also demands consideration for double teams to keep the Broncos from doubling Robinson all game long.
Enter junior wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe. The Texas talent is a playmaker based on last season’s 19.6 yards per catch average alone. Shifty and quick, O’Keefe will see plenty of one-on-one situations while Robinson plays alongside him. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel needs to be ready to find those favorable matchups and hit big plays down the field, or, make accurate throws to O’Keefe and allow him to catch passes in stride where he can run by defensive backs with pure speed. After O'Keefe brings the football into his hands, he's a threat to score.
With UCF making big passing plays to O’Keefe, it will open up more chances for Robinson and every other UCF wide receiver. O’Keefe already has a rapport with Gabriel from last season, so he’s the pick at wide receiver.
Who Helps to Take Away Shakir?
No one defensive back will likely stay with Boise State’s top wide receiver, Shakir, all game long. A mixing of coverages, and possibly cornerbacks that play against him, will probably come about. Further, there could be different ways that safeties help to guard Shakir.
UCF’s most versatile safety might be Divaad Wilson. He’s a former cornerback with speed and athleticism to play in space against talented wide receivers like Shakir. Playing over the top while at safety, perhaps Wilson will be the equalizer to not only help double team Shakir, but cover him in the deep secondary after Shakir gets past a cornerback.
It’s going to happen, Shakir getting behind a cornerback. Shakir is a fast player and a savvy route runner. Wilson’s open-field speed and natural physical prowess should aid him in covering Shakir in space. As long as Wilson helps UCF keep Shakir out of the end zone, he’s going to make plays in this game.
The Knights could see a variety of skill position playmakers emerge during this game, but Antony-Richards, O’Keefe and Wilson present the right styles of play against the Broncos, as well as playing specific positions that need to go up against Boise State’s best (Shakir) player. How the combination of these three UCF players execute to win their one-on-one matchups will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.