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UCF QB McKenzie Milton and the Art of Escapability

Banneret Film Room

McKenzie Milton. (Photo: Derek Warden)
McKenzie Milton. (Photo: Derek Warden)

Sometimes, things just don't go according to plan.

However, University of Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton likes it like that, and his film backs that up.

Milton has an uncanny ability to make something out of nothing when a plays breaks down. As if his arm talent isn't impressive enough to drive his campaign for the 2018 Heisman Award after placing eigth in votes last year, his legs can boost his stock. Not only can Milton sprint to gain a couple of yards here or there, but he utilizes escapability to make throws on the run and outside of the passing pocket.

GIF Credit: Zach Goodall
GIF Credit: Zach Goodall

The above play comes from UCF's 2018 season-opening game against the University of Connecticut. Milton rolls out with UCONN pass rushers swarming the pocket and makes a 40+ yard throw to wide receiver Tre Nixon off of his back foot look like a piece of cake. Perfect placement, perfect touch, all without a stable base to launch this ball from. And yet, to Milton, this is an easy six points.

Milton can use his ability to escape to essentially bait defenders. Unlike most plays you will see in this film room, this following GIF went according to the script:

GIF Credit: Zach Goodall
GIF Credit: Zach Goodall

Reading the closing defender on the option, Milton times his pull perfectly to clear space to make a play on his feet, rather than handing the ball off. He tucks the ball as soon as the defender declares his pursuit of the running back, and in result, Milton has yards of grass to work with to move down the field.

GIF Credit: Zach Goodall
GIF Credit: Zach Goodall

A look back at this past weekend's win over South Carolina State, we once again see Milton pitch a perfectly placed, zippy ball without setting his feet. While it doesn't cover more than 15 air yards compared to past throws in this breakdown, Milton's ability to get the ball where it needs to be - quickly - when in panic mode is on full display. He wiggles away from a fast-collapsing pocket into some open space and squeezes a ball in between traffic while avoiding the oncoming linebacker. The SC State game wasn't Milton's best at all, we still saw his best abilities throughout the match.

GIF Credit: Zach Goodall
GIF Credit: Zach Goodall

Here, we flashback to the UCF vs. USF Battle On I-4 matchup fron last season, where Milton baits a defender into believing he pulled the ball on the option. The defensive end closer to the bottom of the screen bites on Milton moving outside rather than crashing on Adrian Killins for what could have been an wasy tackle for loss, Rather than losing four or five yards, Milton helps Killins turn this into a gain of 22.

GIF Credit: Zach Goodall
GIF Credit: Zach Goodall

To cap this film room off, let's go back to the UCONN game. As if Milton's first roll-out throw to Nixon highlighted at the beginning of this article isn't good enough, this throw couldn't have been better, especially considering the risk level. Milton's quickness to escape pressure actually gives him time to plant his feet and make the down-field throw.

The risk level comes in with the underneath safety in the endzone with a cornerback already in coverage on receiver Gabriel Davis. Perhaps a safety with elite athleticism would have made a play on this ball, but Milton threads this pass so perfectly between the defenders that only Davis can get his hands on it, even in the traffic. Davis was unable to bring the ball in for the catch and score, but in fairness, it's hard to imagine Davis could have expected such precise accuracy given the tightness of coverage and Milton turning the roll-out from nothing into, well, something.

Escapability is one of the strongest parts of UCF QB McKenzie Milton's game. Whether he is using his legs to bait defenders, or gaining yards by running the ball himself, or making crazy, yet beautiful, throws on the run, KZ has as a knack for making electrifying plays outside of the pocket with more than just his arm, and that type of ability can lead him to earning the Heisman Trophy in 2018.