Changing of the guards: Position moves UCF should make heading into FAU

Written by: T. Hill (@EliteEmpireAthletes)

Orlando, FL – After a tough loss in front of a packed home stadium and national TV audience, the UCF Knights hit the road for the first time this season to take on a feisty FAU Owls (2-1) team that is trending upwards under 3rd year head coach Willie Taggart. The Knights’ offensive production took a step back in Week 2 versus Louisville, only scoring 14 points in the game and Zero in the second half. The kicking woes continued last Friday as kicker Daniel Obarski missed a 33-yard FG that would have extended the Knights lead to 17-7 in the 2nd quarter. That now makes consecutive weeks that Obarski has missed managable field goals, which led to head coach Gus Malzahn stating that there would be a competition this week for the kicking duties heading into Saturday’s game at FAU. 

Penalties have also been an issue early in the 2022 season for UCF. During their Week 1 matchup versus South Carolina State, the Knights committed 10 penalties. Last week, they were flagged for 11 more for 111 yards. Two long touchdowns were taken off the board due to holding penalties. UCF will certainly have to clean up their play and emphasize focus on discipline moving forward to be a legitimate contender to capture their fifth AAC title.

Heading into Week 3 versus in-state foe Florida Atlantic, here are the ‘changing of the guards’ the Knights should make to put them in a better position to be more effective moving forward this season.

 

BOOMER SEASON? 

Current starting kicker Daniel Obarski has been a fan-favorite since helping UCF win its first game versus in-state rival Florida Gators. After having a strong fall camp, the Knights felt confident in Obarski handling the field goal duties heading into the season. After two games, Obarski has missed both of his field goal attempts in each contest. The missed 33-yard FG last week versus Louisville really hurt the Knights because it was a missed opportunity that would’ve extended the lead to two possessions and gave momentum to the Cardinals just before the half.

Head coach Gus Malzahn said in his weekly press conference that a kicking battle is officially underway. It could be time for UCF fans to see the debut of local Lake Mary native and ‘Hometown Hero’ Colton Boomer. Boomer is a true freshman that excelled during his high school playing career at Lake Mary High School. Boomer has a big leg and is very accurate on field goals under 50 yards. With just a 60% career average of made field goals, it would be justified at this juncture of the season to replace Obarski and give Boomer a shot at getting the Knights’ kicking situation back on track.

 

JOHNNY RICHARDSON NEEDS MORE CARRIES

It’s been very clear that the coaching staff really believes in the running abilities of starting running back Isaiah Bowser. Ever since transferring to UCF from Northwestern in 2021, Bowser has been a workhorse in the backfield for the Knights. In just 10 games, Bowser has amassed a whopping 208 touches including 196 carries despite missing five games in 2021. With 82 more carries then other listed starter Johnny Richardson, one would assume Bowser’s production is far greater than Richardson. The numbers prove other wise.

Since 2021 when Bowser arrived, Richardson has gained more yards (839) and has a higher yards per carry average (7.4) than the Northwestern transfer. During that same span, Bowser has gained 828 yards and averages 4.2 yard per carry. Richardson’s speed, explosiveness and ability to score from anywhere on the field makes it hard for fans to look away when he’s in the game. This type of game breaking ability would be huge for the Knights, who have been hindered by injuries to some of their top, speedy offensive weapons like Amari Johnson & now Ryan O’Keefe.

TOWNSEND AS PRIMARY PUNT RETURNER

Coming into the season, UCF had major reason for optimism concerning the kick return game with starters Amari Johnson, Johnny Richardson & Ryan O’keefe set to return and play a huge role in those positions. With a late fall camp injury to Johnson and a recent week two injury to O’Keefe, the Knights have relied on veterans like Divaad Wilson & Trillion Coles to return kicks. The primary punt returner, since Johnson went down with his injury, has been starting defensive back Divaad Wilson. Over the past two games, Wilson has done a solid job fielding punts but the return yards have been less than stellar. On four returns, Wilson has gained just 33 yards with most of that coming on a long return of 22 yards versus SC State.

Insert freshmen, Xavier Townsend. The Tampa native and Berkeley Prep standout made the most out of his first collegiate punt return. Fielding the kick around the 40-yard line, Townsend made some exciting moves and shook off a few would-be tacklers as he raced 60 yards to the end zone in the Knights’ home opener. That touchdown too was called back due to a holding penalty on the return. Townsend will be counted on in a larger role on offense due to injuries and absences within the WR group, however he looks very comfortable returning punts where his current average is 18.5 yards per return.

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