Last year, the UCF football team entered the season with many holes and questions on its roster. Primarily, it was unknown who would replace Conference-USA Offensive Player of the Year and Consensus All-American Kevin Smith, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd round of last year’s NFL Draft.
Smith’s potential replacements were five unproven and inexperienced freshman running backs all vying for their shot to be first on the depth chart.
After a year of competition and hard work, Brynn Harvey has emerged as the Knight’s starting tailback, after a late season push in which he tallied 311 yards over the season’s final three games.
In addition to Harvey’s late season surge, he has worked very hard over the offseason and made major improvements that everyone from his teammates to his coaches has noticed.
Harvey attributes his progress to his coaches helping him with his strength and conditioning.
“I’ve just been doing what coach has been telling me to do,” Harvey said. “I’ve been working on my cuts and working with the strength and conditioning coaches while working on my speed to try to get my conditioning up.”
Offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe has noticed the elevation in Harvey’s performance.
“I watched some of the tape when I got here in January,” Taaffe said. “It seems like he had a really good latter part of the season. He was a true freshman coming out of high school and he really improved as the season went on.
“He looks a little leaner, but a lot more solid. His foot work and running game has been much more consistent. His vision is very good and he’s seeing things much better than he did in the spring. He’s making good decisions on his cuts and picked up a step or two in his burst on the line of scrimmage. He’s been extremely impressive.”
While Harvey has certainly made considerable improvements, the transferring of Latavius Murray also boosted Harvey’s chances to move up the depth charts. Murray, who led the Knights in rushing touchdowns last year (three), transferred back to UCF after tearing his ACL.
He also had good things to say about Harvey.
“When you first get out there as a freshman, the game hasn’t slowed down yet,” Murray said. “You are pretty much just getting the ball and running sometimes. He has developed a style and more of a sense of reading which just comes from repetition really.”
Murray will look to be the primary backup to Harvey when he returns from his injury and he thinks he can bring a lot to the table.
“I feel I can bring a different change of pace and just some fresh legs to help out the offense. How the running back depth ends up is up to the coaches…but just helping Brynn learn more of the ins and outs of the football game is something I have taken upon myself.”
When Murray does return from injury, the Knights will be fortified at the running back position with a set depth chart that no longer is a question. UCF will have great depth with all the different strengths and talents that each running back brings.
“All of us bring a little different aspect of running back ability,” Murray said. “It’s just a collective kind of learning curve that we have to come about because some of us learn faster than others. We have a little puppy over there (Brynn Harvey) who is coming up and he is learning and we are trying to bring him up so that he can get to the learning curve that some of the older guys are at.
“All of us are learning new things every day.”
Now that Harvey has a year of experience under his belt, he can work off his progress from the end of last season and develop even further.
Harvey’s late season growth catapulted him into one of the leadership roles on the team, as he finished first in rushing attempts (125), rushing yards (519), and rushing average per game (51.9). His career day came on a late season game against Marshall, where he tore up the Herd defense for 150 yards and a touchdown.
This year he will get an opportunity to do that on a much more consistent basis and he would like to show that off.
“I got more power,” Harvey said. “I want to show my speed. I didn’t get to show that last year, so I would like to show that off.”
With UCF having tough games against the likes of Texas, Miami, and ECU, the Knights will need Harvey to be at top form. By the looks of it with all the improvements he’s made, it won’t come to anyone’s surprise if Harvey has a breakout season.