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Knights in the Pros: 2023 NFL Season Recap and Playoff Preview

Let’s recap how UCF Football alumni performed

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2023 NFL regular season behind us and the 2024 NFL Playoffs beginning this Saturday, let's go over how every former UCF Knight performed and which players will be competing for a Super Bowl title.

K Matt Prater — Arizona Cardinals

Prater had an excellent year for the Cards, going 28-for-33 on field goal attempts, with his longest kick of the year coming from 62 yards, and 22-for-23 on extra point attempts.

While his season had some low moments, like missing a game-winning field goal in the final week against the Seahawks, he had some highlight moments such as kicking a game-winning field goal in Week 10 against the Atlanta Falcons, becoming the 12th kicker ever to make 400 field goals and setting the Cardinals’ record for most 50+ yard field goals.

Prater also extended his NFL career record for most 50-yarders with 80, and is 15th all-time in NFL history in scoring with 1,780 points. He’s also the active leader in field goals with 401, which is 12th-best all-time.

CB Shaquill Griffin — Houston Texans/Carolina Panthers

Griffin dressed for two different teams this season. He started the year with the Texans, where he would play in 10 games and record 33 tackles, 24 of which were solo tackles, in addition to four pass deflections and one interception.

Griffin was released by the Texans on November 29th and signed with the Panthers the next day. He appeared in three games with the team and recorded six tackles, five of which were solo tackles, and one pass deflection.

S Richie Grant — Atlanta Falcons

Grant played in all 17 games for the Falcons and started in 15 of them. He recorded 103 tackles, 66 of which were solo, plus three sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception.

WR Brandon Johnson — Denver Broncos

Johnson appeared in 13 games and started in two. He was forced to miss Weeks 8-12 due to suffering a hamstring injury during practice. During the season he recorded 19 receptions for 284 yards and four touchdowns.

He will be most remembered for his performance in Week 2 against the Washington Commanders where he caught two touchdowns, including a 50-yard Hail Mary in the final seconds that would end up being all for naught as the Broncos would fail to tie the game with a two-point conversion.

DB Mike Hughes — Atlanta Falcons

Hughes played in 15 games and started in four. He recorded 21 tackles, 14 of which were solo tackles, and one pass deflection.

DT Trysten Hill — New England Patriots

Hill started the season off with the Cleveland Browns before being released and signing to the Patriots practice squad. He dressed for a single game, the Patriots’ Week 7 game against the Buffalo Bills.

WR Tre’Quan Smith — Denver Broncos

Smith started the season with the New Orleans Saints, though he never played with the team due to being on injured reserve. He would be released on September 26th and would sign with the Broncos on October 3rd.

Smith would dress in a single game for the Broncos, which was ironically happened because of the injury Johnson suffered, the team’s Week 9 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He didn’t record any stats in that game.

OL Justin McCray — Carolina Panthers

McCray dressed for four games, two of which he started.

WR Jacob Harris — Jacksonville Jaguars

Harris spent most of the season on the Jaguars practice squad, though he did get elevated and play in Weeks 3 and 4, primarily on special teams.

K Matthew Wright — Carolina Panthers

Wright would bounce around practice squads this season, spending time with the Panthers in the preseason and the 49ers, Falcons, and Patriots in the regular season before returning to the Panthers, where he would be elevated to the active roster for the final game of the season. In that game, Wright would miss his lone field goal attempt, a 52-yarder.

DB Divaad Wilson — Arizona Cardinals

Wilson started his rookie season by being cut by the Jaguars before the first game of the season. He was signed to the Cardinals practice squad a few days later, where he would stay until being elevated in Week 12.

He would be elevated for a few more games before finally being moved to the 53-man roster on January 5th. Overall he appeared in three games, playing on special teams, and made four solo tackles and one assisted tackle.

CB Tay Gowan — Tennesse Titans

Gowan was cut by the Minnesota Vikings before the start of the season. He would sign with the Titans in October and dressed in a single game, their Week 16 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Of note: Tre Nixon (Patriots) and Aaron Robinson (Giants) were signed to NFL rosters the entire year but didn’t play. Nixon was on the practice squad while Robinson was on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Playoff Players

WR Gabe Davis — Buffalo Bills

Davis had another solid year. He caught 45 passes for 746 yards and 7 touchdowns while playing all 17 games.

While not used as the team's number one receiver, Davis has shown this year he is capable of putting on a superstar performance, like in Week 16 against the Los Angeles Chargers where he caught six passes for 130 yards and one touchdown.

Bills fans have given him the nickname “Big-Game Gabe” for his ability to perform well in important games. However, he suffered a knee injury in last week's game against the Miami Dolphins and his status for the playoffs is uncertain.

The Bills are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at 1 p.m.

RB Latavius Murray — Buffalo Bills

Murray played in 16 games for the Bills and recorded 79 carries for 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Murray's usage decreased near the end of the year due to the emergence of James Cook, as well as the Bills signing Leonard Fournette, and QB Josh Allen’s success running the ball. Because of this, while Murray should get some carries, don’t expect to see him a lot.

TE Jordan Akins — Cleveland Browns

Atkins appeared in all 17 games for the Browns, in which he caught 15 passes for 132 yards.

Because the Browns' other tight end is David Njoku, who is having a monster year, expect Akins to continue to be the team’s backup tight end.

The Browns will take on the Texans in the Wild Card round on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

LS Charley Hughlett — Cleveland Browns

Hughlett served as the Browns’ starting long snapper for the entire season. He has never missed a game in his nine years in the NFL, and even tied his career-high for tackles with five in 2023.

LS Alex Ward — Los Angeles Rams

The other member of the UCF NFL Long-Snapper Club, Ward was the Rams’ starting long snapper from Weeks 1 to 14 before being placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. It looks like he will miss the Rams’ Wild Card game, though he could return if the Rams make it farther in the playoffs.

The Rams will take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday at 8 p.m.

DT Kalia Davis — San Fransisco 49ers

Davis dressed in 14 games for the 49ers, though he would serve as a backup player and only saw playing time in Week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he recorded his first NFL sack.

The 49ers are certainly the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But while Davis has a good chance of getting a ring, don’t expect to see him take the field that much if ever in these playoffs.

The 49ers earned a first-round bye as they are the #1 seed in the NFC.