ORLANDO - With several key players returning to the UCF offense in 2022, plus the Transfer Portal being kind to the UCF offense as well, the Knights should be a really good offense in 2022.
Not many teams in college football just bring in a talented tight end like Kemore Gamble from Florida, or offensive tackle Tylan Grable from Jackson State, and of course adding yet another talented wide receiver like Kobe Hudson from Auburn, just to begin to tell the tale of UCF’s transfer success.
There are really good players sticking around for one more year that could have left UCF as well, but did not. This is a talented team and one that many in the national media are probably sleeping on right now.
All in all, the talent is there for the Knights to be explosive this next football season. Will they be though? Here are a few points of emphasis that need to be considered before completely passing judgment, with one key question to be answered at the bottom of the article. Some of these points, by the way, should be obvious to see during the spring game.
This unit will be fast! When a player like running back Johnny Richardson can come off the bench to spell Isaiah Bowser after the opposition has been gassed while trying to stop the 225-pound Bowser, that’s going to be a problem for that particular defensive unit. It happened in 2021, and it’s going to be in place for 2022 as well. There is a caveat now, however.
The Knights have more playmakers that are familiar with the overall offensive system. The mental jump from year one to year two will be significant. There are more plays that can be run, and there are more opportunities to play fast with a no-huddle offense to keep defenses from substituting. That’s exactly when a player like Richardson can do damage, or a wide receiver like Jaylon Robinson or Ryan O’Keefe will also be able to go over the top for scores. The two areas of running and passing the football work hand-in-hand to create a symmetry, unlike part of the 2021 season.
Balance and Injuries
That symmetry was not always present in 2021. Injuries annihilated the UCF offensive depth chart. Teams just cannot lose Bowser and Robinson and be the same, let alone the starting quarterback in Dillon Gabriel. That’s just a fact. Football needs timing and rhythm; UCF will be far better off this next season with more athletes to run out onto the gridiron, which in turn keeps players fresh for the fourth quarter.
Then, the Knights can pick and choose if the rushing attack or passing attack needs to be the focal point in clutch moments. This past season, UCF had a true freshman signal caller in Mikey Keene in the lineup, and he was missing NFL talent at multiple positions around him. That’s just not a good recipe for winning. In 2022 during a third down and four, he could easily choose to check to a running or passing play with more playmakers around him and the added experience he’s gained.
Even if Keene does not end up being the starting quarterback, any of the other candidates will be able to utilize the talents of more playmakers than what UCF had this past season. That’s a huge factor in UCF’s favor.
While quarterback is the obvious unknown, the overall experience of the offensive line is fantastic. While not the most sexy thing to discuss, the offensive line should be the backbone of the offense once again.
It cannot be understated how big it is for UCF having Sam Jackson return for a sixth season, plus having a future NFL center manning the middle in Matt Lee with returning starting offensive guard Lokahi Pauole right next to him. They are going to open some holes, and the Knights should be able to average 200 yards on the ground. The skill talent is going to be more diverse, deeper, and it brings the experience to the table that UCF needs as well.
Even Gamble, although transferring to UCF from Florida, understands the level of conditioning and attention to detail needed to be a big-time college player. That’s part of being an experienced college football player despite not yet knowing the UCF playbook.
Gamble went from 10 receptions in 2020 to 31 catches in 2021. He was counted on even more as he matured and learned the Florida offense. He’s going to bring that saviness to Orlando, and it will pay dividends for the Knights.
The “It” Factor
Several of the offensive players mentioned in this article are on the verge of being NFL players. To make that desire a reality, all of these young men need to truly ball out and play big-time football for UCF this next season. Every single one of them!
Take Bowser for instance. He’s an NFL talent, but needs to show durability. Much the same with Robinson at wide receiver. With a big season, Hudson could turn pro a year early. It’s the same deal with the offensive lineman like Jackson or Lee or Pauole. Being on the tip of being financially set for life is definitely a motivator.
The Big Question
How will the chemistry be with the 2022 UCF Football team? College coaches discuss it frequently. Just having talent is not enough. That one question can be broken down into some further more specific questions.
Will you fight for your brothers? How do you grind in the off season when it’s 110-degrees fahrenheit and it’s time to run 110-yard sprints with the UCF strength and conditioning staff pushing you to the limit?
When there’s this much NFL talent on a unit that’s close to getting paid, it generally goes one of two ways: really good or really bad.
So, will this team gel and work together to be great or will they be more like individuals and just looking to cash that first NFL check? The answer to that last question will come with UCF’s won-loss record and how consistent the UCF players perform from one game to the next.
The talent is there, and if these young men buy into being there for one another, the sky's the limit.
There are still nuances of the offense that need working out, beginning with quarterback. That’s what spring ball is for, and it shall continue through fall camp. Everything else points to UCF having an explosive offense in 2022. In fact, many Power Five teams would struggle to match the speed and experience in their lineups that UCF will trot onto the field in 2022.