A fast paced offense and some self-inflicted wounds aided UCF to its 23rd straight victory. The Knights defeated theCincinnati Bearcats, 38-13, and clinched a spot in the AAC championship in the process. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in game report:
They aren’t called UCFast for nothing. The Knights play at one of the fastest paces in college football and have the players at the skill positions to make it work. They currently average 43 points per game and scored 38 against Cincinnati, who hadn’t given up for more than 30 in the six games previous. The list of contributors offensively is exhaustive. Six different players caught at least one pass and five different players ran the ball at least once. In his first season as head coach, Josh Heupel has carried over some of the spread principles that he used in Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. Junior quarterback McKenzie Milton (5’11, 185) isn’t the prospect that Sam Bradford was coming out of Oklahoma under Heupel’s tutelage, but the UCF quarterback is putting up reminiscent numbers. The Knights will need a lot of help to get into the College Football Playoff but even if they don’t make it, their offense will pose a big problem to any Power 5 team because of the one-on-one matchups they can create week-to-week.
UCF defensive ends
Senior defensive end Titus Davis (6’3, 250) and junior defensive end Brendon Hayes (6’3, 293) are two premier pass rushers who feast on opposing quarterbacks once UCF takes big leads. The two tag- teamed for a turnover in the second quarter, when Davis met Cincinnati freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder (6’4, 212) in the backfield, forcing a fumble that Hayes recovered. For the game, Davis finished with three sacks, bringing his season total to six. Hayes, the better edge-setter and run defender between the two, had five tackles and a pass deflection.
Before the Bearcats could settle down, they were already in a hole. In the first half alone, the Bearcats lost a fumble, missed a field goal, had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point.
“We generated some momentum early in the game and gave it right back to them, whether it was a missed field goal or extra point or something like that,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. “When you’re playing the champs, when you’re playing a team as good as they are, you can’t have mishaps like that.”
For the game, the Bearcats were comparable when it came to total yards and third down efficiency. But the early lopsided score made the Bearcats one-dimensional and turned what could have been a close game into a blowout.
Perhaps no running back has made a more indelible mark on college football’s first month than Memphis’ Darrell Henderson. The former South Panola High School (Miss.) star has been a factor since his arrival on campus, but this could become a season to remember.
Through three games, he is averaging nearly 14.5 yards per carry while leading the nation in rushing yards (521). He is also tied for second in the country with six rushing scores. The added strength he put on this offseason could explain some of his early season success (https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/sports/college/memphis-tigers/football/2018/08/04/memphis-tigers-football-darrell-henderson-mike-norvell-aac/858753002/). Over the course of the last three seasons, DraftNasty has gotten the opportunity to see Henderson play live on three different occasions. Here are some of the attributes which make him such a difficult player to get on the ground.
Some of Henderson’s best moves come in-between the hash marks setting up second and third-level defenders. To get there with ease, he runs with a center of gravity low to the ground that allows him to bounce off would-be tacklers. This becomes evident on the team’s outside zone (stretch) run game principles versus force defenders.
The patience that he shows in allowing his offensive linemen to reach block defenders creates cutback lanes for him back into the middle of the field. In the clip pictured to the left, he forces UCF free safety Tre Neal to overrun a tackling angle that results in a 30-yard touchdown scamper in the 2017 AAC Championship Game. Neal weighs 215 pounds and Henderson -standing 5-foot-8- checks in around the 205-pound mark.
SPEED-to-POWER/YARDS AFTER CONTACT
Henderson gets to full speed in a hurry once he hits the accelerator button. A combination of lower and upper body power allows him to run through tacklers. Versus Georgia State last Friday, he buckled freshman safety Chris Bacon once he burst through the line of scrimmage. Later in the first quarter, Bacon overran Henderson on a top-down angle as Henderson displayed his ability to stop-and-start with relative ease on an outside stretch play. It resulted in a 54-yard touchdown that showcased his game-breaking speed.
Since arriving on campus, Henderson has showcased capability on special teams. Although he has just four tackles in the course of his career, three came during his freshman campaign in 2016. On his 18 career kickoff returns, he has averaged 22.5 yards per return with one score. Overall, this is not an area (special teams) to expect to see him in much during the year, but he will show up as a kickoff returner and punt cover guy in big games (see 2017 AAC Championship Game). As seen in the picture , he runs with passion as a kickoff returner.
Vision is one of the top characteristics many college recruiters identify at the running back position. Aside from the outside zones, the Tigers used a combination of weakside one-back powers in 2017. The team would pull its backside guard and tackle while blocking down with the center, guard, tackle and tight end on the front side of the formation. When they did, it was Henderson’s job (from an offset shotgun alignment) to find a crease and get vertical quickly. They also employ him at the Wildcat quarterback in the shotgun to add an insert blocker on outside runs. His cutback ability shines on these types of schemes.
As a freshman in 2016, the team used him on wheel routes from the offset running back position. In these instances, he’s shown the ability to snag passes away from his frame (3rd and 6, Cincinnati ’16, vs. 3-cloud defensive look). They also occasionally use him in the screen game to the weakside of their formations away from speed motion (by the Z-WR) to the strong side. Versus Georgia State last Friday night, he lined up at the No. 2 slot position to run a quick out in the team’s Empty Gun Spread Trips Left formation. Henderson averages 11.5 yards per reception for his career (53 receptions, 6 TDs).
Despite 319 touches in three seasons, the eighth-leading rusher in Mississippi high school history has fumbled just twice during his time in school. He holds the ball high and tight to his frame and rarely allows it to swing loose from his frame.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Despite the ball security, Henderson does have a tendency to run as a left-hand dominant runner. Even when he is running to his right he is most comfortable with the ball in his left hand. Take a look on the picture to the right. Henderson is running a right kickoff return towards the right sidelines versus UCF in the 2017 AAC Championship Game with the ball high and tight in his left elbow. While he is also able to jump cut and make defenders miss with sudden stops in momentum, he carries some tightness in the lower body. As a tightly-wound athlete, he has to pay increased attention to flexibility moving forward. He was unable to play in the 2017 Liberty Bowl versus Iowa State due to an undisclosed lower body injury.
Regardless, the former 2014 Mississippi Gatorade Football Player of the Year has increased his production at a time where the Tigers are transitioning from All-AAC quarterback Riley Ferguson to former Arizona State quarterback Brady White. In three games, White has thrown 10 touchdowns to just one interception. In his own estimation, Henderson is a big reason the transition has been so smooth.
“I love it,” White said, when asked about having Henderson lined up behind him. “It makes my job easy. You just hand the ball off and watch him run to the end zone. It’s been a huge help to have that guy in your backfield.” (–https://gotigersgo.com/news/2018/9/14/football-henderson-white-lead-tigers-past-georgia-state-59-22.aspx)
Larry Fedora will have to make do without 13 suspended players to begin the season. Nine of the 13 players including sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt will miss four games. Since multiple players share the same positions, Fedora will have the option of staggering the suspensions. However, even with a fully equipped roster, it will be an uphill climb for the Tar Heels, who finished 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The Tar Heels will be able to hang their hat offensively on their skilled positions. The trio of sophomore running back Michael Carter (5’9, 195),junior tight end Carl Tucker (6’2, 255) and junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams(6’1, 205) will be the core of the offense. Defensively, the position most hurt by the suspensions will be defensive end. Sophomore Tomon Fox (6’3, 250) and senior Malik Carney (6’3, 245) will both miss four games apiece. Junior defensive back Myles Dorn (6’2, 210) is one player Fedora will be able to count on. Dorn finished last season with two interceptions and 71 tackles. Dorn has the skill to join fellow former defensive back M.J. Stewart in the NFL one day.
Troy’s player to watch
17 Anthony Ratliff-Williams 6’1 205 WR-Junior
“Do it all” is the best way to describe junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Ratliff-Williams, a former quarterback, has made the transition to wide receiver and kick returner over the past two seasons. In 2017, Ratliff-Williams averaged 26 yards per kick return and returned two kicks for scores. He added 35 receptions for 630 yards and six touchdowns. Look for Ratliff-Williams to once again be featured early and often on special teams and as a receiver in 2018.
Game of the season
October 20th at Syracuse
The Tar Heels won just one game last season in the ACC. Games against Virginia Tech and Miami could be tough, but North Carolina has to be able to win games against teams that finished with similar records as them last year. Syracuse finished with two wins in the conference a year ago. Both teams will need every victory to become bowl-eligible. Their midseason matchup could decide the postseason fate of both teams.
DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch
36 Cole Holcomb 6’1 215 LB-Senior
Holcomb has always impressed in the weight room and he can notably squat nearly 600 pounds. He has decent foot speed and has even been used off the edge to rush the quarterback. In 2017, he turned in his second-best season and that produced 93 tackles and 2.5 tackles for losses. Equally adept in coverage, he has gotten his hands on a number of balls. While only adequate taking on lead blockers, he still needs to add slightly more mass. He injured his right shoulder in 2017.
DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a slim improvement over last season. Fedora’s team will win five games and narrowly miss out on bowl eligibility. The Tar Heels will fall to Miami, California, UCF, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Duke.
Former Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller was ranked 43rd overall on DraftNasty’s 2018 Big Board. The Chicago Bears took him with the 51st overall pick (2nd Round) of the 2018 NFL Draft. The second-team All-American went over the 1,400-yard mark in 2017 (1,462) after topping the 1,200-yard mark as a junior. His ability to play in the slot or on the outside made him one of the draft’s most attractive targets.
Former UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin posted 175 tackles, 18.5 quarterback sacks, 33.5 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, 11 pass break-ups and one fumble return for touchdown in his career. The 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year has a non-stop approach that includes 4.38 speed at 227 pounds. We take a deep dive inside his game after catching up with him during the week of the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.