Transfer WR Core Helps Shape UCF Football Depth Chart, Brings New Dynamics to RPO Game

UCF Football added three wide receiver transfers to the 2021 roster. Those three players bring size, speed, and experience that help the wide receiver core overall, and will be especially impactful for the run-pass option opportunities Head Coach Gus Malzahn runs.
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The Knights bring back Dillon Gabriel, one of college football’s best quarterbacks from the previous two seasons. He already has a good group of wide receivers to pass the football, but now he now also has three transfer wide receivers that will not only catch passes and block for the running backs, but they bring a special element to the run-pass option (RPO) game for the Knights.

The three transfers are Nate Craig-Myers (Colorado State), Jordan Johnson (Notre Dame), and Brandon Johnson (Tennessee). Let’s take a look at some of the attributes for these three wide receivers and how they impact the UCF wide receiver unit overall.

What Do We Have?

During Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s fall camp press conference, he mentioned multiple times that he was looking forward to seeing what the team looks like with the transfers that came to UCF. He will certainly like seeing three new but experienced wide receivers that can impact the bread and butter of Coach Malzahn’s zone-based running scheme, and that’s the RPO game.

Like any other position group, there needs to be players that work together to maximize production. The wide receiver core brings back experienced players such as Ryan O’Keefe (20 receptions, 391 yards, and three touchdowns) and Jaylon Robinson (55 receptions, 979 yards and six touchdowns) that can be dynamic within a RPO-based offense. They will be aided by those experienced transfer wide receivers, as will the rest of the Knights returning wide receivers.

It’s the little variations with technique; UCF wide receivers carrying out their assignments to the letter of the law that can change a play from a five yard gain to a 75 yard touchdown. Bringing in a player such as Craig-Myers, for example, allows for a bigger bodied wide receiver (6’2”, 205) that will certainly catch passes, but also be a good blocker on the perimeter and help spring the speedy O’Keefe and Robinson for big gains. Another bigger player, Brandon Johnson (6’2”, 195), can help pave the way for big gains in the RPO game.

Run-Pass Option Big Plays Mean Everyone Blocks

Every play incorporates the offensive line’s efforts to spring a skill position player for positive yards. RPO plays are no different. With the added impact of wide receivers knowing their keys and blocking for one another, the wide receiver unit can help the Knights hit those massive chunk plays that change a college football game. That’s where the transfer wide receivers should be vital to the Knights. Here’s a video that helps define what it means to operate the RPO game:

Speed to Take the Football the Distance

Sometimes Gabriel simply needs to place the football in one of the playmaker’s hands, such as O’Keefe, near the line of scrimmage. When the wide receivers even see a small crease, there’s a chance for a long touchdown reception. Let’s be honest, several of the UCF wide receivers possess the speed to score from 50 yards or more. This unit would do well in the SEC West. It’s that talented. Overall, as Robinson defines within the following video, the UCF wide receiver core is very fast.

With defenses likely to focus on O’Keefe and Robinson, any one of the three transfers will be one-on-one during a play. These guys can run, too. They add to an already dynamic group of wide receivers. One transfer in particular should be a playmaker once the football reaches his hands.

Jordan Johnson is Dynamic

There’s a reason that Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame, Missouri, Illinois, and a host of other programs wanted to sign Johnson coming out of St. Louis. He’s a playmaker. Now that he's transferred to UCF, Knights fans will see a player that’s perfect for the RPO game because during one-on-one situations if the cornerback is even slightly fooled with the run fake, Johnson will run by him.

Even if a cornerback is in Johnson’s hip pocket, he can high point the football and make a catch. He’s adept at making difficult catches, as his high school film displayed, and he’s yet another weapon for Gabriel.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a screen, short pass or deep pass, Johnson’s speed and elusiveness will change games. From all the transfer wide receivers, he’s likely to be the most dynamic, especially from a make-you-miss perspective. Keep an eye on the Notre Dame transfer.

Final Thoughts

UCF needs the three experienced transfers just to be themselves. There will be ample opportunities to score touchdowns, as well as help the other wide receivers and Gabriel connect for touchdowns. People around college football probably have little idea of just how much talent the Knights wide receiver core possesses, but they see come Sep. 2 when Boise State comes to the Bounce House.

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