Juggling Running Backs

With an offense that ranks dead last in the Conference USA, and the entire nation as well, UCF is looking to change things up a little in the backfield. The Knights will especially rely on a solid performance from their running game in order to keep an explosive Tulsa team at bay.

The Knights have missed Kevin Smith, something that Coach George O'Leary said would be expected.

"I don't know if you can replace him," O'Leary said in the preseason. "Whether it's UCF or any school you are at, when you're a consensus All-American at running back, it makes it very difficult."

UCF has tried to replace Smith, or at least soften the blow of his decision to leave school early for the NFL, with a tandem of inexperienced running backs.

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Weaver and true freshmen Brynn Harvey, Brandon Davis and Latavius Murray have been the core group of players relied upon to replace Smith, with Weaver leading the way.

Weaver, who a year ago was expected to be the third-string running back by this point in the season, was thrust into the starting role. Weaver has had his ups and downs, but has improved each week, including a 123 yard performance against SMU. On the season, Weaver has accumulated 348 rushing yards and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry.

While Weaver has impressed coaches with his well balanced game and relentless effort, a lack of fluidity, vision and explosiveness has prompted UCF to try the other backs.

Harvey, Davis and Murray have all seen playing time, but only Murray was effective and that was against a FCS team. While the three true freshmen have struggled behind Weaver, they all offer the explosiveness that Weaver lacks, something could earn them playing time Sunday against Tulsa.

"I think we got to get them [running backs] playing more...sometimes you go with experience, I think we need to get make sure these other guys get on the field and get an opportunity to see what they can do," said O'Leary. "They do impressive things in practice... they need to start seeing time and they will this week."

A strong running game will be crucial for UCF, especially this week when the Knights play the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, who has the number one offense in the nation.

"They try to get up on you real quick; people start to panic, and start throwing the ball all over the place instead of continuing their run/pass ratio and that is what leads to problems," added O'Leary. "Possession time is critical when you play a team like this."

Which running backs play against Tulsa is still somewhat of a mystery, although Weaver will likely get a majority of the snaps. Look for Davis and Harvey though to get some reps and Murray should also see serious action for the first time since UCF's season opening win over S.C. State, the last time the Knights were above .500.

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