UCF defeated Kent State 56-6 in the Knights' season opener on Thursday night at the Bounce House. Here's my biggest takeaways.
1) John Rhys Plumlee is fearless, maybe too fearless
JRP played a really good game in the season opener, finishing with 281 passing yards and three passing touchdowns while also adding 90 yards and a score on the ground. We've known that the multi-sport athlete knows no boundaries in life. Back in April, we saw the senior hit a triple for the UCF baseball team, and then throw a touchdown in the Knights' spring football game just hours later. He is relentless and fearless, and it shows in his determination on the field.
While JRP is bound to produce some show-stopping highlights on the field, it also suggest the question of Risk vs Reward. Plumlee led the Knights with six fumbles last season. We saw one last night while the QB was scrambling for extra yards. Beyond being a tad loose for the football, the UCF community is a tad concerned for the QB's health, and it goes beyond just the fans and media. First year UCF offensive coordinator Darin Henshaw voiced his concerns in a press conference on Friday afternoon.
If Plumlee uses his head to strategies when to be aggressive opposed to fighting for extra yards, he could be one of the most valuable dual-treat quarterbacks in the Big 12.
2) UCF has an elite running attack if utilized correctly
JRP possesses a ton of talent and ability on the ground, leading the squad in rushing yards last season. However, you don't want to rely on that, and UCF doesn't have to. UCF's running back room is loaded in both returning talent and first-year transfers & freshmen. UCF's lead back a season ago was Isaiah Bowser who used his size and strength to bully opposing defenses for extra yards and scores. Bowser has graduated, making room for a new RB1. In my head, UCF doesn't have one - that's one of the team's biggest strengths. Returning backs RJ Harvey and Johnny Richardson will make up what could be a dominant three-headed rushing monster along with JRP. Both of them averaged close to seven yards per carry on limited usage last year behind Bowser (2022 rushes: Bowser - 205, JRP - 159, Harvey - 118, Richardson - 54). With Bowser out of the picture, we should see an increase in production for both backs. Last night, Harvey ran for 84 yards on ten carries, including a 48-yarder to the house. Richardson added 100 yards on 12 carries.
Harvey and Richardson fit the #UCFast motto along with Florida transfer Demarckus Bowman. Sophomore Jordan McDonald is also a name to add to this rushing attack as the potential goal-line punisher with his 6'1 220 frame.
3) Xavier Townsend - get to know the name
Sophomore wide receiver Xavier Townsend put on a show for Knight Nation, starting the game with three receptions and a score on UCF's opening drive. He finished with five receptions for 82 yards, along with a big 28-yard rush on a designed sweep.
Plumlee has taken note of Townsend's progressions as a wide out, stating on Friday "Man he's good. It's scary because he hasn't been doing it too (too) long."
Townsend converted from a running back at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, to a receiver once he stepped foot on campus at UCF. He saw limited productivity in 2022, catching 23 balls for 127 yards. However, with Ryan O'Keefe transferring to Boston College this summer, Townsend will likely fill the hole alongside returning wide receivers in Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson.
To hear myself, Brandon, and UCF football expert Sean Green break down the Knights' season opener, click on the podcast below from Friday on 'In The Zone'. BK and I break down the UCF and UF season debut's in the first half, and Sean joins in at the 12:43 mark.