Happy new year!
As the clock struck midnight Tuesday, we could officially start looking forward to UCF Knights football games this year.
In the 200-some days between then and now, there will certainly be changes to the Knights’ roster. Josh Heupel said at his early signing day press conference last month that there are still has “a couple” of scholarships available, either for high school recruits or transfers. Some players might still leave the program via the portal. Plus, the deadline to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 20; maybe another Knight joins Gabriel Davis as an early entry.
So, it’s a fool’s errand to really dissect this roster beyond a skeletal level. But knowing what we know right now, here is a guess at what the Knights’ two-deep depth chart would look like if they were planning for a game today.
Dillon Gabriel; Darriel Mack Jr.
To include McKenzie Milton here is premature.
The only other quarterback on the roster is Hayden Kingston , who was affectionately known as “Coach Hayden” this past season. The decommittment of Mike Wright made a lot of sense for him, but it leaves UCF thin — yet extremely talented — at the most important position.
Jan. 8 update: Hayden Kingston is listed as a redshirt junior on UCF’s 2019 roster, but he said on the Sons of UCF podcast this week that he is out of eligibility and will move into coaching full time. So, yeah, the Knights could really, really use some quarterback depth in case Milton is unable to return.
Greg McCrae; Otis Anderson
Bentavious Thompson will factor in heavily as well, and with youngsters Damarius Good and/or Trillion Coles likely to make a leap in their sophomore season, UCF has more than enough players capable of keeping this backfield highly productive, even when it leans on Anderson as a receiver more often.
You already know.
WR1: Tre Nixon; Amari Johnson
WR2: Jacob Harris; Jaylon Robinson
Slot: Marlon Williams; Otis Anderson
I think Harris or Williams will get moved out wide more often in 2020, but don’t get caught up in the exact layout of this position, because the order isn’t really the point. It’s the sheer amount of talent that is most noteworthy. You have these six targets available as well as Ryan O’Keefe, Ke’von Ahmad, 6-foot-4 true freshman Ja’Cyais “Stretch” Credle, etc. UCF will remain incredibly rich at the WR spot, even without Davis. You can’t understate how much it helps that Anderson decided to return for his senior season, and Harris got a sixth year of eligibility.
Jake Hescock; Jonathon MacCollister
UCF also signed two TEs commits last month — Jordan Davis and Tony Forrest Jr. Hescock’s experience makes him the leader, but the fact is the best blocker will see the most playing time.
LT: Samuel Jackson; Tony Gray
LG: Cole Schneider; Lamarius Benson
C: Matthew Lee; Kyle Back
RG: Parker Boudreaux; Lokahi Pauole
RT: Edward Collins; Josh McMullen
O-line was a position of focus in the Knights’ 2020 signing class as they added three recruits last month. But Marcus Tatum, a grad transfer from Tennessee, is a name to know, especially with UCF being a tad short on experience at tackle. He played in 24 games over the past two years with the Vols, including some starts. McMullen should return after missing all of this season due to an injury.
Jackson and Schneider are the linchpins of this line because of their versatility. If Lee struggles in the middle, Schneider could possibly move over; he started out at UCF as Jordan Johnson’s backup. And Jackson can basically line up anywhere other than center. Those two plus Boudreaux are all but locked into starting gigs. There might be some good competition at the other tackle spot, however.
LDE: Tre’mon Morris-Brash; Stephon Zayas
LDT: Kalia Davis; Anthony Montalvo
RDT: Kenny Turnier; Cam Goode
RDE: Randy Charlton; Landon Woodson
There are a lot of options UCF can use to fill out the depth chart here, but we like the upside of this starting front four. Charlton and Morris-Brash on the edges especially could create consistent chaos.
LB: Eric Mitchell; Tatum Bethune
LB: Eriq Gilyard; Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste
It’s a pretty safe guess that these four will make up the two-deep at linebacker in UCF’s 4-2-5 alignment. According to UCF’s participation logs, the only LB on the roster outside of this quartet who saw playing time in 2019 was Randy Shannon Jr. He played in one game.
LCB: Brandon Moore; Zamari Maxwell
SS: Richie Grant; Derek Gainous
FS: Antwan Collier; Jermaine McMillian
NB: Aaron Robinson; Dyllon Lester
RCB: Tay Gowan; Devunte Dawson
We could see one of the five DBs in UCF’s early signing day class make an impact next season as a backup. We don’t know if the JUCO transfer Dawson will be that guy, but he’s a representation of that possibility.
But take a moment to digest that starting five. It’s obviously assuming that Moore will fully recover from his ACL tear, but given that, is this the best defensive backfield UCF has ever fielded? It has that potential. It should be regarded as one of the best in college football entering 2020.
Our early enrollees are officially here ✔️ pic.twitter.com/uONHuY58ZH— Angelia Brummett (@angeliajolie_) January 4, 2020
PK: Daniel Obarski
KO: Daniel Obarski
P: Andrew Osteen
LS: Alex Ward
KR: Bentavious Thompson
PR: Otis Anderson; Marlon Williams
We’re open to all takes you might have on this roster, but especially at kick returner, which is a blank canvas following the departure of Adrian Killins Jr. We can’t see UCF doubling Anderson’s workload in the return game and thereby raising his injury risk exponentionally. For what it’s worth, Thompson was the deep man on kickoffs in the Gasparilla Bowl but had nothing to return.
You have to imagine there will be a place-kicking competition in the offseason, but Obarski’s big leg makes him an obvious candidate.
While there are some questions to answer along each of the front lines, the cupboard is far from bare on either side. The 2020 Knights look pretty stacked all over the field, but especially in both backfields. With a ridiculous amount of skill-position weapons, a battle-tested secondary and a young star at quarterback, another New Year’s Six appearance will and should be the expectation.