ORLANDO - It’s great to discuss the pass exploits of Dillon Gabriel and all the high-flying offensive production that the Knights produce each season. Those plays would not happen without the following players doing their jobs first.
The lack of notoriety for many positions just goes along with the job description for many different roles for the Knights, just like most college football teams. The players that block, as well as the players that grind during practice just to be allowed to come into an actual game, those players also make a big impact despite a lack of notoriety.
This article would be dedicated to them. This first article will be all about the offense. Look for articles regarding the defense, and the special teams as well, over the weekend.
Note: There are obviously elite skill players on this UCF team. This article is bluntly about the players that supplement their play and deserve far more credit for doing so than most often credited with doing.
If one hangs around Inside The Knights enough, you will consistently be made aware of the importance of offensive line play. To that end, UCF’s offensive line deserves high praise for helping to produce one of the nation’s top offensive units. Here are the Knights’ offensive and special teams statistics through three games:
From that group of offensive linemen, there’s a special scenario that played out over the course of two games. Center Matthew Lee played very well during the first two contests. Unfortunately, he was injured during the Bethune-Cookman game. Although he tried to play against Louisville, Lee could not overcome the injury. Here’s to a speedy recovery moving forward. His replacement did an incredible job.
One of college football’s top offensive guards would be Cole Schneider. He moved over from left guard to play center, and the Knights did not miss a beat against the Cardinals. There were plenty of running lanes and the time to throw the football continued to be sound. Hats off to each of these young men.
As a side note, it was offensive lineman Adrian Medley's first start and he handled it well. Great sign for the redshirt sophomore that he was ready to perform at a moment's notice. Moving onto the rushing attack’s big-little man, Johnny Richardson started to show what he could truly do against Louisville.
Did anyone miss the explosive speed Richardson displayed against Louisville?
It would be easy to do so. The sophomore running back is a blur! Richardson gashed the Louisville defense with nine attempts for 101 yards, averaging 11.2 yards per carry. Like with Lee, injury kept starting running back Isaiah Bowser from staying in the lineup. Once Bowser left the Louisville game, Richardson picked up the slack with serious explosiveness and toughness, too.
Richardson provided more than sheer speed. He went through arm tackles and fell forward for positive gains. He’s the type of running back that can change a game with one carry.
Moving forward, the combination of Bowser and Richardson should be a difficult combination for teams to overcome. That does not even take into account the talents of running back Trillion Coles either. The Knights have one of the most loaded backfields in the country; it's as much heart as it is talent that leads the running backs. Do not forget that.
This group of running backs each play hard regardless of which player UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn sent to enter the lineup. They seemingly feed off of one another. That’s the definition of unsung heroes if there ever was one, collectively speaking. One more offensive player to mention.
When you play in the same wide receiver lineup as explosive athletes like Ryan O’Keefe and Jaylon Robinson, you probably will not receive the same level of notoriety. Well, do not tell that to Brandon Johnson, the transfer from Tennessee. What a great addition to the roster Johnson proved to be.
The speed of O’Keefe and Robinson aside, Johnson completed his duties by way of size, route running and toughness. He can run, too. It’s just that he knows how to play football above all else. When it is time to block, that’s when he truly might be making the biggest contribution.
During a wide receiver screen to a player like Robinson, a good block from a teammate like Johnson can be the difference between a two-yard loss and scoring a 50-yard touchdown. Johnson will block and complete his task willingly.
By doing his job, Johnson also keeps the attention on the other wide receivers. He’s actually helping himself with his blocking because it helps himself to receive more single coverage. By being a good teammate, Johnson proved that good things come back around.
This unsung hero already witnessed karma paying him back. Despite playing with two jackrabbits in the same lineup, Johnson leads the team with three touchdown receptions. He’s earned his just rewards through hard work and being a team player. Hats off to you, Mr. Johnson.
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