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UCF Releases Depth Chart for Opener vs. Boise State

SHOCKER: Dillon Gabriel will start at QB

UCF vs Houston
Ryan O’Keefe
Photo by Conor Kvatek/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The UCF Knights released their first depth chart for the 2021 season, barely 24 hours before their season opener against the Boise State Broncos.

Let’s quickly look at the newly released two-deep:

Offense

Quarterback

Obviously, it was a joke that it’s a shocker that Dillon Gabriel was named the starting quarterback. The interesting note is that true freshman Mikey Keene is his backup. Keene had a chance to play during the spring game and looked to be the most effective between him, Quadry Jones, and Parker Navarro.

Running Back

This one is definitely a position of interest. After losing Bentavious Thompson and R.J. Harvey, fans have been wondering who the starting running back will be? The question has been answered as Northwestern transfer Isaiah Bowser has been listed as the starting running back with both Johnny Richardson and Mark-Antony Richards named as the second string. Expect all three to see some action as they all bring something different to the table. Ultimately, it looks like Malzahn is going with experience and Bowser has plenty of it.

Wide Receiver

There is no shocker here. Tennessee transfer Brandon Johnson, Jaylon Robinson, and Ryan O’Keefe are your big three. This has been the general consensus for some time. The question is who backs up who? Amari Johnson is firmly behind O’Keefe. It’s still undecided between Colorado State transfer Nate Craig-Myers and Notre Dame transfer Jordan Johnson behind Brandon Johnson as well as Kaedin Robinson and true freshman Titus Mokio-Atimalala behind Jaylon Robinson.

Tight End

No surprises here either. Jake Hescock came back for one more year and as expected, he’s the guy. Alec Holler is his backup.

Offensive Line

Another position group with very few surprises. The starting line of Marcus Tatum, Cole Schneider, Matthew Lee, Lokahi Pauole, and Samuel Jackson is exactly who we expected. The only interesting note is seeing Mike Lofton as the backup center over Nate Brady. Brady saw a lot of action at center during the spring game and struggled with his snaps. This is a very senior-laden crew as five out of the ten in the two-deep are seniors.

Defense

Defensive Line

UCF has three listed defensive line positions: Two defensive tackles and a defensive end. Kalia Davis and Western Kentucky transfer Ricky Barber are your starting defensive tackles with Keenan Hester and Cam Goode behind them. Anthony Montalvo is your starting defensive end with Josh Celiscar as his backup. One player missing from the initial two-deep roster is Tre’Mon Morris-Brash. Morris-Brash got into some legal trouble last week, so his status is up in the air.

Something to note is that the defense is looking to utilizing some flex positions. One is the Buck position, which is normally short for the backside, or weakside, linebacker. Big Kat Bryant is listed here with Landon Woodson as his backup. With both being at least 6ft5 and 235lbs, they’re a bit undersized for a traditional defensive line, but this position should allow them to move around.

Linebacker

There are two linebacker positions. One is covered by Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste with Quade Mosier behind him. The other is a split between Tatum Bethune and Eriq Gilyard. The other flex position is listed as the Knight, which has Kennesaw State transfer Bryson Armstrong, followed by Devunte Dawson. Armstrong is a linebacker with a lot of FCS level accolades while Dawson is a defensive back that missed last season due to opting out. At under 200lbs, it will be interesting to see how Dawson handles this position.

Defensive Back

The position that had the most question marks still has the most up in the air. Two of the four positions have two players listed at the top of their positions. Corey Thornton and Auburn transfer Marco Domio are still fighting for one cornerback spot while Quadric Bullard and Derek Gainous are still battling for safety. Davonte Brown has the other cornerback spot locked up with true freshman Brandon Adams as his backup. Divaad Wilson has the other safety position with Dyllon Lester behind him.

Special Teams

Kicker

This is the $64,000 question. Who will be the Knights’ placekicker? Will it be the incumbent Daniel Obarski or transfer Ryker Casey. Unfortunately, the depth chart does not answer that question as they list both. What isn’t a surprise is that Obarski will have kickoff duties. He has a cannon of a leg and a higher percentage of touchbacks compared to Casey.

Punter

No surprise here. Andrew Osteen is busy climbing up the school leaderboard in punting and should continue to do so as the starting punter. Alan Kervin will back him up and be the starting holder.

Returners

In another move that shouldn’t be a surprise, Ryan O'Keefe is set to be the primary kick returner and Amari Johnson to be the primary punt returner. Both have returning experience from last year. Johnny Richardson is behind O'Keefe and Titus Mokiao-Atimalala is behind Johnson.

Out of the initial two-deep roster, UCF has one redshirt freshman (Jordan Johnson) and three true freshmen (Mikey Keene, Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, and Brandon Adams) listed.