This week, we’re answering what we think are the five biggest questions facing the UCF Knights as they enter the 2019 college football season. Our final entry takes a look at the Knights’ kicker and punter spots.
UCF has been lucky on special teams the last few years. On top of having such talent as Mike Hughes and Adrian Killins returning kicks, the Knights had Matthew Wright at kicker and Mac Loudermilk at punter.
Now, of course, they don’t. Both kickers graduated, and if UCF finds itself in some close games this year, the results may well be left to freshmen.
Dylan Barnas, Connor Piazza and Daniel Obarski
Matthew Wright was as accurate as it gets. Even with limited opportunities due to UCF’s propensity to both score touchdowns and go for it on 4th down in plus territory, Wright hit 12/14 last year, and a perfect 7/7 from under 40 yards.
Replacing Wright will be one of three guys, of which Dylan Barnas is the only senior.
Barnas, a Merritt Island kid, may likely find himself as the kickoff specialist, since his only kickoff for UCF came against Austin Peay in 2017, and he has never attempted a field goal. But Josh Heupel liked what he has seen from him so far in the field goal department.
“I think Dylan’s been really pretty consistent with his field goals,” Heupel said on Saturday. “I like where he’s at.”
Wright wasn’t the strongest kickoff guy in the past, as of his 97 kickoffs last year only 29 went for touchbacks (by comparison, Austin Seibert of Oklahoma booted 91 TBs on 109 total kickoffs), and field position will always be a key element in helping UCF’s defense.
When it comes to scoring points, the battle will be between freshman Daniel Obarski and redshirt freshman Connor Piazza.
Obarski is the favorite, having shown enough talent to earn himself a scholarship on Signing Day as the #23-ranked kicker in the nation by Kohl’s.
“Obarski’s been kicking the ball extremely well on his kickoffs in particular, and is continuing to fight for the field goal job,” Heupel said of him Saturday.
So if anything can be gleaned from Heupel, Barnas seems to have the inside lane on the field goal job, with Obarski as the kickoff specialist. Piazza, a native of Eustis, sounds like the odd man out at the moment.
Andrew Osteen and Alan Kervin
Punter will be another battle between a redshirt and true freshman, with Enterprise, Alabama native Andrew Osteen taking on Chris Sailer Kicking product Alan Kervin.
Osteen has the advantage of having been on the roster for one season, although he didn’t do anything last year with Mac Loudermilk earning UCF fans hearts and minds, but his film is impressive:
Kervin, from Tarpon Springs, played himself into a Signing Day scholarship spot thanks in part to his impressive showings at Sailer’s kicking camps:
Heupel didn’t reveal his cards on Saturday. “The punting competition is real,” he said, “and I’d like to get through the next scrimmage before we probably name a guy in that role.”
What happens now?
Of course we could be all wrong about everything, as all of these guys are versatile in their own rights. They all can perform kickoffs, punt and kick field goals. All spots could very well go down to the wire, and may be open into the season depending on how things go. And as expected, UCF is being tight-lipped about it, not because it’s a state secret, but in order to preserve the competition between the guys.
There are a lot of options, and so someone is going to have to take each job. We have to just wait and see.