ORLANDO - Pick your poison. The UCF Football team provides the running back and wide receiver talent to dismantle a defense individually, and it also does an excellent job of utilizing complementary skills to continuously place a defensive coordinator in a bad position.
Go ahead and load the box to stop the run. See how well that works with UCF’s speed at wide receiver. Want to play cover two and cover four so that it’s harder to pass the football down the field? Meet the very talented group of UCF running backs.
The UCF offense proved to be dynamic through the first three games. Here’s a further breakdown of what the running backs and wide receivers accomplished so far this season.
For a team to be as unwavering with its rushing attack as the Knights through three games would be surprising, especially considering adding Head Coach Gus Malzahn, his new coaching staff, and schemes. It’s a testament to players and coaches for grasping the system together; the results are fantastic.
Beyond numbers, the UCF rushing attack continued to up schematic advantages because defenses needed to attack the line of scrimmage with more defenders than it wanted in an attempt to slow down the running game.
The result has been a passing game that’s flourished with big plays. The UCF offense continued its explosive ways again through three games, and the rushing attack deserves much of the credit. Looking at the position from an individual perspective, there’s Isaiah Bowser, a player that should be in the conversation for team MVP.
Bowser rushed for 268 yards and five touchdowns so far, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Those totals came from roughly eight quarters of action, as he sat out the second half of the Bethune-Cookman game and barely played most of the first half of Louisville and the same in the second half.
No question, when Bowser played, the Knights provided the most consistent version of the 2021 offense. Even when Bowser does not tote the football, the Knights excelled when running the football.
Johnny Richardson amassed 15 carries for 134 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. He’s one of the most explosive players in all of college football. From walk-on to key contributor, Trillion Coles rushing totals include 19 carries for 129 yards and one touchdown, with a 6.8 yards per carry average. This is a really good running back depth chart.
This is a group that’s growing. There are three primary wide receivers -- Jaylon Robinson, Brandon Johnson and Ryan O’Keefe -- with young and talented wide receivers like Amari Johnson, Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, and Kaedin Robinson also providing production during prime moments.
With the top-end talent and budding prospects combined, evaluating this group goes beyond just numbers. The receiving core for the Knights provides difficult decisions for opposing defensive coordinators.
Jaylon Robinson accumulated 12 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 19.5 yards per catch. He continued to display what an outstanding No. 1 wide receiver does each Saturday, and he alone changes how a defense must attempt to play against the UCF offense as a whole.
It’s the threat of the deep ball that makes the UCF offense unique, and Robinson is one of several players that can run by defenders. O'Keefe and Amari Johnson will happily blow by a defensive back, too. It's just a fast group overall. Opposing defenses take notice, as so do some of us in the media.
From the Bounce House press box, watching an opposing defensive secondary prior to the snap of the football, it’s easy to watch how deep safeties play as a respect to the speed of this wide receiver unit. That’s why UCF created numerous big plays from running and passing through the first three games.
It’s also why UCF’s offense is just incredibly difficult to slow down, let alone stop, regardless of where the football is placed before the snap.
With such an array of weapons, UCF creates mismatches with defenses. Further, it causes a defense to choose. Commit to the line of scrimmage and provide one-on-one wide receiver versus cornerback matchups, as well as some wide receiver versus safety matchups, that make some defensive coordinators cringe. That’s also why the Knights convert 47.4% of their third downs, which is good for No. 34 in the nation. There’s also the red zone.
The Knights scored 13 out of 15 trips into the red zone, with all 13 scores being touchdowns. That’s a 86.7% success rate, good for No. 59 in the nation. Forget the percentage of a moment. UCF scored more touchdowns in the red zone than any of the following schools: Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa State and Mississippi State, all teams that have a bevy of offensive skill talent.
The running backs and wide receivers played well off of one another so far this season. It’s been a great combination of talent and scheme. With the younger running backs and wide receivers coming on, there’s reason for further optimism for the rest of the 2021 season.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast; it will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For Twitter, @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!