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CFF Targets - This 5'8 RB could be the biggest STEAL of your draft
The UCF staff have a penchant for leaning on bellcows at the RB position; this 5'8 standout is a potential first round value at a mid-round price
It’s an exciting time to be a Knights fan. This is a program that — despite being fairly new to college football (CFB) — has had a lot of success already. In 2017, they went undefeated under former head coach Scott Frost; and they haven’t had a losing season since the 2016 campaign.
In 2023, the UCF Knights are one of four programs moving to the Big 12. This will be a step-up in competition for each, which will have ramification for the CFF outlook of their players. In a previous article, I likened the four programs to the four salesmen of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. That analogy had Ed Harris’ character embodying UCF, in a scenario where Nick Saban (representing Alec Baldwin’s character) is scolding UCF for their bold claim winning a national championship from the 2017 season.
In the new format of the playoff, and now as members of the B12, a real national championship is not out of the question for UCF. Though, there may be some rough seasons initially.
Regardless, today I want to spotlight a player that I think is going to have a monster 2023 season — UCF’s RB RJ Harvey.
Also, shoutout to whoever UCF’s photographers are, it’s always easy to find sharp and dynamic photos of their players on the inter webs — that just makes my life that much easier!
Coaching & System
There’s a lot to be excited about with the UCF coaching staff. HC Gus Malzahn’s track record is rich with volume pigs at RB, as is his OC Darin Hinshaw.
In Malzahn’s history as OC or HC between the years 2006 and 2019, his RB1 averaged 1280 yards and 12 TDs a season. In 2021, he looked to have found his next volume pig at RB in Northwestern’s transfer Isaiah Bowser. Unfortunately, Bowser’s season would be derailed by an injury. He would also struggle to stay healthy in 2022, and the Knights deployed a more committee approach — something that hasn’t happened often under Malzahn’s watch.
Hinshaw joins Malzahn at UCF as the OC for 2023. Prior to that, he was the OC at UAB in 2022, an analyst at UCF in 2021, and the co-OC/QB coach at Kentucky (UK) between the years 2016 and 2020. His short history at play-caller includes the likes of Dwayne McBride (1713 rushing yards in 2022), Benny Snell (1449 and 1333 yards in 2018 and 2017, respectively), and Stanley “Boom” Williams (1170 yards in 2016).
He also had QB turned WR Lynn Bowden Jr. rush for 1468 yards and 13 rushing TDs in 2019.
In Benny Snell’s two marquee seasons in 2018 and 2017, the Cats fed him 289 and 262 carries. McBride saw 233 carries in 2022.
In 2016, Hinshaw had two RBs go over 1000 yards in Williams (1170 yards and 7 TDs) and Snell (1091 yards and 13 TDs). Not counting the COVID year, Hinshaw had a 1000-yard rusher every season at UK , and a total of five 1000-yard rushers in four seasons (2016-2019).
Malzahn had ten 1000-yard rushers in thirteen seasons between the years 2006 and 2019. That time span included two massive seasons from Darren McFadden: 1830 yards, 16 touchdowns in 2007, and 1647 yards, 14 touchdowns in 2006; as well as a 1800+ yard rusher in 2013 with Tre Mason rushing for 1816 yards and 23 TDs. In his only season at Arkansas State (2012), his RB1 David Oku ran for 1061 yards and 16 TDs.
All that to say, I like what I see from this staff’s history at the RB position, and my interest is a lot higher in Harvey than it was prior to researching this profile.
RB RJ Harvey - 5’8, 195
Rising senior RJ Harvey is entering his fourth year with the Knights. He originally began his career as a QB at UVA, before transferring to UCF in the 2020 offseason to play RB. This past season, he rushed 118 times for 796 yards and 5 TDs in 12 games, he also caught 22 passes for 215 yards. That’s an average of 11.66 touches a game. He didn’t play in 2021, and played sparingly in 2020.
UCF’s 2022 season did not see a clear bellcow at the RB position, as QB John Rhys Plumlee rushed for 862 yards on 159 carries, while RB1 Isaiah Bowser rushed 205 times for 799 yards.
Unfortunately, Plumlee returns, but Bowser has since moved on — clearing the runway for Harvey’s breakout this season. While Plumlee will undoubtedly still catalyze a large portion of the run game, Harvey should be able to see a heavy workload now as the RB1.
Harvey’s primary competition for carries includes Johnny Richardson (5’7, 170) and potentially former five-star Demarkus Bowman (5’10, 193) by way of UF and Clemson.
Richardson is too small to be relied on heavily, and Bowman has been a question mark his entire career. I’m going to take UCF’s official website weight listing for Bowman at face value, however, this is a player who has struggled to put on weight throughout his career.
Plumlee at QB is my biggest concern. This one hits particularly close to home — in 2022 I (accidentally) rostered several RBs on teams with rushing QBs. Whether it was K-State’s Adrien Martinez vulturing TDs from Deuce Vaughn, or OK-State’s Spencer Sanders with Dominic Richardson, I made a mental note to not repeat this mistake again. While I plan to make sure I draft a healthy amount of RBs with zero-rush style QBs, having one or two is not out of the question, and Harvey is one I will happily take a chance on due to what I’ve seen this staff do in the past.
While I am not much of a believer in Bowman or Richardson, it’s possible that I’ve picked out the wrong RB. Perhaps one of those two becomes the primary carrier. That being said, Harvey is the lead returning rusher in the backfield for the Knights, and has the requisite size to handle a heavy workload. There could also be a situation where Harvey is 1A and Bowman or someone else is 1B. Something to note, is that despite Jermaine Brown Jr. seeing a heavy workload last season at RB2, the UAB Blazers ran the ball often enough to facilitate elite production from its RB1 McBride.
The Knights are transitioning to the P5 level in 2023, that means they are going to have a harder time moving the ball and scoring. They might transition smoothly — like JMU into the G5 last season, or it could be tough sledding. That’s something to consider as far as risk factors with Harvey.
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