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2021 UCF Football Position Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Despite heavy losses from last year, there is reason to be optimistic

Temple v Central Florida
UCF WR Jaylon Robinson
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The 2021 football season is right around the corner for the UCF Knights. It’s a new era with head coach Gus Malzahn running the show, With a new season comes new expectations. Today, we’re going to look at the wide receivers and tight ends.

Despite top end attrition, the wide receivers look good

UCF lost a lot of their top end talent to the NFL. Marlon Williams, Tre Nixon, and Jacob Harris are all gone.

The remaining player from the top four is redshirt junior Jaylon Robinson. Junior speedster Ryan O’Keefe did a great job during the offseason to establish chemistry with quarterback Dillon Gabriel. It showed at the spring game as O’Keefe was by the far the best wide receiver on the field that day. Amari Johnson is also someone to keep an eye out for. He’s third on the team in receptions last year for returning wide receivers. The Knights brought in a number of transfers to make an impact. Redshirt seniors Brandon Johnson and Nate Craig-Myers comes from Tennessee and Colorado State, respectively. It’s worth noting that Craig-Myers did play two seasons with Malzahn at Auburn. Also transferring in is talented redshirt freshman Jordan Johnson from Notre Dame and sophomore Jaylon Griffin from Killgore College. Redshirt sophomore Dionte Marks, a Florida transfer, is now eligible to play after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. There’s a lot of talent here and plenty of game experience despite many new faces. With a new offense being installed, everyone is learning something new.

Tennessee v Arkansas
UCF WR Brandon Johnson
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The tight ends lack experience on the bench

With senior Jake Hescock coming back, he is the only tight end with any meaningful game experience. Alec Holler, Zach Marsh-Wojan, and Ryan Kaneshiro are the only other tight ends on the roster with any game experience, being utilized on special teams. Someone somewhere is going to have to step up. True freshman Charlie Browder is a towering 6ft7, just like Hescock. Also available this year is redshirt freshman Jordan Davis, younger brother of alum Gabe Davis.

Tulane vs UCF
UCF TE Jake Hescock
Photo by Conor Kvatek/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Both units have new offensive schemes

Under previous head coach Josh Heupel, the offensive philosophy was that of the air raid. The wide receivers ran very simple routes that highlighted their raw speed, including many fly routes. On the short end, they used bubble screens to allow the receiver to showcase their speed. The tight ends weren’t used in the passing game much at all. The offense struggled when the defense was fast enough to keep up. That philosophy is no longer at UCF as Gus Malzahn’s offense is much more conventional in that while it still focused on speed, it utilizes more of the short and middle thirds of the field. This will make the receivers have to focus on more than just speed and the tight ends will play a role in the passing game again.