Buckeyes Could Face UCF without Top Back
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — The Buckeyes may catch a break, or sorts, when they face the University of Central Florida next Saturday.
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, the UCF Knights could be without starting tailback Latavius Murray when they make their trip to Columbus in week two.
The 6-3, 222-pound senior out of Nedrow, N.Y. ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in UCF’s season-opening win over Akron. It was a 56-14 rout for George O’Leary’s squad, which is coming off a 5-7 season a year ago, but they may have lost Murray to a shoulder injury in the process.
“Right now, he’s week-to-week as far as whether he’s in the game plan,” O’Leary told the Sentinel.
“We’ll see what he looks like this week, but I wouldn’t count – we’ll see where he’s at.”
Murray suffered the injury during the first half against Akron, after scoring the Knights’ second touchdown from two yards out, and then watched the remainder of the contest from the sidelines.
He only ran for 549 yards last season, but he also caught 17 passes for 242 yards while scoring nine touchdowns. He also averaged 5.6 yards per carry, including a monster performance in the season-finale against UTEP.
After rushing for a combined 316 yards in the first 11 games of the season, Murray gashed the Miners for a career-high 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground in a 31-14 UCF victory.
Murray scored on runs of 38 and 40 yards that night, and he also caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Blake Bortles as the Knights snapped a three-game losing streak.
Bortles will be under center for the Knights next weekend in Columbus, but O’Leary may have to look at some other options in the running game. Fortunately for UCF, there are some options if Murray can’t go against the Buckeyes.
Immediately behind Murray on the depth chart is former Miami (Fla.) tailback Storm Johnson. A former 4-star running back out of Loganville, Ga., Johnson transferred to UCF last season and sat out the year in compliance with NCAA transfer rules.
Johnson is a dynamic athlete with big play potential. He only had nine carries as a freshman at Miami, but busted off the Hurricanes' longest run of the year when he scampered 71 yards for a touchdown against South Florida.
He didn’t look nearly as dynamic in UCF’s opening win over Akron this past week. Though he did score a pair of touchdowns, they came from two and three yards out, while averaging just 2.8 yards on 12 carries.
“Storm went out and, you know, I thought his body was moving faster than his feet,” O’Leary said of Johnson’s performance at Akron.
“I think that’s typical of you see something, you get so excited you want to hit it. He needs to get his feet underneath him better, alright, and basically stop trying to take a four-yard run 90 yards. ... Just let it happen.”
The Knights have a few other options behind Johnson, one being redshirt senior Brynn Harvey and the other freshman Cedric Thompson. Harvey is a kid who ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2009.
He had five 100-yard rushing games that season – including a 42-carry, 219-yard performance against Memphis – but a devastating knee injury cost him the entire 2010 season. He started five games last season, totaling 574 yards and three touchdowns on 126 carries.
“I think Brynn Harvey was pretty much what we expect,” O’Leary told the Sentinel.
“He goes out and does his job. Very reliable as far as getting things done, whether it’s in protection or the run game. He was very good in special teams this game, too.”
Harvey had five carries for 13 yards against Akron, while Thompson carried the ball 11 times for 44 yards and a touchdown. He was a 2-star recruit out of Everglades High School down in Miramar, Fla.
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