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UCF Coaches Talk Up the Knights’ Prodigies

Co-offensive coordinators Alex Golesh and Anthony Tucker on Thursday praised a host of young players who have excelled in training camp

UCF redshirt freshman running back Damarius Good.
Photo: UCF Athletics

Alex Golesh and Anthony Tucker share the title of offensive coordinator for the UCF Knights, but since each man is primarily responsible for a particular position — Golesh coaches the tight ends; Tucker oversees the running backs — it’s no surprise that is where the conversation gravitated when each man met with the media on Thursday.

Of note was Tucker’s take on a trio of freshmen running backs and Golesh’s frank assessment of where junior JUCO transfer Zach Marsh-Wojan has to fortify his game in order to become the team’s lead backup tight end.

Here are the notable things they had to say, starting with Tucker and the running backs.

“Been really pleased with the young talent we have in that room,” he said of the RBs. “I think the future looks bright. The future might be now.”

Damarius Good

Head coach Josh Heupel said last week that Good is “just a completely different player” compared to where he was at this time last year. Tucker concurs:

“He has grown up a lot. He doesn’t look like the same guy he was last year as a true freshman. He’s learned a lot about what we’re doing, how things are done, how to operate to earn your way on that field. Of course, those young guys especially, they suffer from not having a real offseason and spring ball. But I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen from him.”

Johnny Richardson

Tucker said the whole team has caught on to calling Damarius Good by the nickname of “Goodie.” I’m not sure if “Spark Plug” will become Richardson’s nickname, but that’s exactly how Tucker described the pint-sized, big-play frosh.

“A ton of energy,” Tucker said of Richardson. “I know [the media] haven’t had a chance to get out there (to watch practice), but really, really talented. Again, trying to bring him up to speed.”

Speed isn’t a problem for the 5-foot-7 Richardson; he clocked in at 10.81 seconds in the 100-meter dash while at Lake Wales High School.

RJ Harvey

Good has spent one season in UCF’s system. Richardson has spent just a few months. Harvey? He’s been with the Knights for barely a week, and the transfer from Virginia is trying to learn a new position to boot as he’s moving from quarterback to running back.

“He’s obviously a really talented player,” Tucker said of Harvey, a redshirt freshman. “We recruited him when he was coming out of high school and knew that he was talented. So, really happy to have him.”

Tucker said Harvey possesses some natural skills that are making his transition a little easier. As a former dual-threat quarterback, Harvey is used to searching for rushing lanes, and he doesn’t get flustered when he sees some hefty defensive tackles bearing down on him.

But then there are parts of the position that require more teaching.

“More or less, it’s just teaching him the intricacies of the running back position,” Tucker said. “Really, the guys that come from high school, whether they play running back or not, we ask those guys to do a lot of protection. That’s usually the biggest learning curve, the protection piece, because there are some things in our protection that aren’t simple.

“It’s my job, our job, to catch him up on what we’re doing, seeing what he can handle and helping him build at the right pace because it is a new position. But it’s not altogether foreign to him. Instead of taking a snap, we’re going to hand it to him.”

Zach Marsh-Wojan

Marsh-Wojan is currently battling true freshman Tony Forrest Jr. for that No. 2 tight end spot on the Knights’ depth chart. Marsh-Wojan was a three-sport athlete in high school and played wide receiver up until a year ago, according to Golesh. So, he has the inherent athleticism to get past linebackers and the 6-foot-5 frame to overwhelm safeties.

What he isn’t very comfortable doing yet is blocking at the line of scrimmage, something that is a must if Marsh-Wojan wants to see considerable snaps this season.

“We’re putting a ton on him in the blocking side,” Golesh said. “I think he feels comfortable when he’s out in space and running around and the ball is in the air — I think that’s his comfort zone.

“It’s been getting in the box and having somebody in your face right now. You practice against our defense, and they’ll attack you a million ways. I think just being used to being in the box and bodies everywhere and, for him, being able to react quickly, he would tell you there’s a learning curve there. We’ve put a lot on him and pushed him because I think he understands how pivotal his job is for us to be successful on offense.”

Other Young Knights Impressing

— Each coach brought up true freshman wideout Ja’Cyais Credle when asked which players have stood out in camp.

“He’s mature beyond his years in terms of playing ability and learning the offense and learning the system, and then actually being able to go and play at a high level to keep pushing that veteran group,” Golesh said of Credle.

Added Tucker: “He’s a really good young guy that I think you’re going to hear a lot from here.”

Golesh on redshirt freshman center Matthew Lee: “Looks like a veteran and has practiced like a veteran and really sets a really physical tone up front for us.”

Tucker on sophomore wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe: “Has done a really good job. He played a little bit last year, but he has really, really matured and developed.”

Every college football team is underscoring the necessity of depth this season. In talking with Golesh, Tucker, Heupel and defensive coordinator Randy Shannon over the past couple of weeks, it’s evident that UCF’s coaches believe they will have that depth, due in large part to their roster’s new blood.

“A lot of really, really bright spots with what’s going on there,” Tucker said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting these guys ready to play here in a little over two weeks.”