UCF has had its share of ups and downs over the past half-decade and there have been mixed reviews…
Is Davis Better as a Back?
"Latavius, after spring ball, was playing recreation basketball and tore his ACL," O'Leary told the Sentinel. "He'll be out next season. We just operated on him. I'll probably just red-shirt him."
Although Murray was beginning to be utilized more effectively this spring, there is some silver lining with his injury. Murray has the capability to be a starting back and being red-shirted should allow him to gain a year of eligibility, meaning he won't have to be in Brynn Harvey's shadow during his entire tenure at UCF.
However, the more intriguing trickle-down effect of this injury is what the team will do with freshman Jonathan Davis, who was arguably UCF's best commit of this past class. O'Leary told the Sentinel that Murray's injury will enable Davis to play running back for the Knights.
"I think he's a good athlete and we've felt all along that with the number of people we've got back at the linebacker position, his best opportunity to help us right away was to play at the running back position," O'Leary told the Sentinel. "I think if you look at strength and speed, he's got all that. I think we'll give him an opportunity there or wherever he can help us out."
Davis was likely to play linebacker or even safety for the Knights, but the emergence of converted safety Derrick Hallman has opened the door for Davis to make the switch to running back. What are the pluses and minuses of this situation?
The downside is that Davis, an elite play-maker, could have contributed immediately at safety if given the shot considering the lack of starting experience the Knights have in the secondary. His raw talent and athleticism would likely have benefited the group. However, Vance King deciding to stick with the Knights combined with the improvement Justin Boddie showed this spring guaranteed the team to have a little more depth and overall talent than what was originally anticipated.
Now for the positives. The Knights now have two dynamic runners in the backfield this year with somewhat contrasting styles. The thunder and lightning combo that Harvey and Davis will offer should get fans excited.
At safety, Davis' 5'8" height might have been a liability at times, but his lack of height becomes an advantage now that he's a runner. Have you ever heard of Maurice Jones-Drew? At running back, height matters very little, so the one knock on Davis now becomes irrelevant.
Davis' pure measurables are also enticing. He weights a solid 210 lbs, which is impressive when you consider his stature. Throw in the fact that he runs a 4.38 40-yard dash and runs the short shuttle in an impeccable 3.9 seconds and Davis has combine numbers that a first-round NFL draft pick would be envious of.
Then comes Davis as a runner. The Tucker H.S. (GA) product is capable of battering opponents up the gut or blazing by them on sweeps. He has excellent acceleration and can get to the edge in a hurry. He combines his speed with a devastating stiff arm and strong legs which he keeps driving until the play is over. His best attribute though is his balance. Davis will get bounced and shoved but he has the uncanny ability to keep his shoulders facing forward, enabling him to absorb contact and to continually move forward.
Combining all the aforementioned traits, you have a hell of a back, but that's not it. Davis has an excellent attitude, plays with a chip on his shoulder, is always enthusiastic and was arguably the best player in the state of Georgia for the past three years.
Murray's injury is a setback for the Knights' offense, there is no denying that, but it has potentially opened the door for a back who could be an absolute game changer on offense. The Knights have produced some stellar backs in the program's history, but few have had the explosiveness that Davis offers. Even the great Kevin Smith did not have the constant big-play ability that Davis has.
How long Davis will play running back is a mystery. He could stay on the backfield for his entire career or he could move to defense if Murray comes back at full health. Either way, UCF fans should be in for a treat for at least this season.
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