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 specialists.
What to do about the kicking game?
This is the $64,000 question. UCF’s kicking game was inconsistent behind incumbent junior Daniel Obarski. Obarski was 12-17 for his field goals, but one miss was a costly one that allowed Memphis to defeat UCF last year:
His spring game results did not inspire a lot of confidence either. He has a cannon of a leg, as shown by his success on the kickoff, with 50/78 kickoffs going for touchbacks last year.
Being the placekicker and the kickoff kicker are not mutually exclusive. Obarski’s competition comes in the form of redshirt sophomore Ryker Casey, who transferred from Appalachian State. Casey worked exclusively on kickoffs at ASU and while his numbers weren’t as strong as Obarski’s, there will be ample competition for placekicking duties.
Also on the team is Louisiana Tech transfer Garin Boniol. He didn’t play much at LA Tech, so he’s a bit of a mystery.
Punting is in good shape
Redshirt junior Andrew Osteen returns for his third tour as UCF’s punter and despite a rough spring game, he’s pretty good. Osteen’s 42.9 yards per punt is currently second in school history. He’s also in the top 10 in number of punts and yards. Redshirt sophomore Alan Kervin sits behind Osteen, but short of an injury, he shouldn’t see the field this season.
There’s experience in the return game
The two main players who handled kickoff return duties are back. Junior wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe and sophomore running back Johnny Richardson should both be contributing to the return game this year due to their blazing speed. O’Keefe returned 11 kicks for 240 yards last year while Richardson returned 4 kicks for 77 yards. For the sake of playing time and protecting your top players, having Richardson as the primary returner might be the safer move so O’Keefe can focus more on offense, since it’s expected for him to have a more expanded role. Junior Amari Johnson shared punt returning duties with Otis Anderson. Anderson has moved on, so Johnson becomes the lone holdover. There’s no reason to think he won’t get an opportunity to continue as the lead punt returner.