Saturday’s game between Maryland and UCF took a toll on the injury report for the Big Ten’s Terrapins, but UCF took a blow as well. Now, the Knights will have to play the remainder of the season with a new starting running back.
Jawon Hamilton had started UCF’s first two games of the season and accumulated 11 starts in his time at UCF, but a leg injury in the first quarter of Saturday’s game led to surgery and a premature end to his 2017 season. Hamilton shared the news of his surgery on his Facebook page, saying his surgery went well and already focusing on the fact he will have three years of eligibility to use. Hamilton will be eligible for three years because he will qualify for a medical redshirt with his season-ending injury coming so early in the year.
Hamilton rushed for 495 yards and four touchdowns last year but never got a chance to have the impact he was expected to have in the offense this season. UCF blew out their first opponent of the year, FIU, and allowed Hamilton to get some early rest, and his injury occurred in the first quarter against Maryland after a storm-altered layoff interfered with UCF’s football schedule.
Junior Taj McGowan and sophomore Adrian Killins now step in as the running backs that will fill the void. Neither is designated as the starter over the other on the depth chart this week, which means head coach Scott Frost either wants to keep both involved or see which one proves capable of carrying the load moving forward. McGowan rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, and Killins had a team-high 6.5 rushing yards per attempt in 2016.
The other option available would be 6′-0″ 248-lb freshman Cordarrian Richardson. The big freshman has carried the football 11 times for 39 yards and a touchdown in the early stages of the season. He may not be ready for full-time rushing duties just yet, but he certainly brings a sizable advantage in short0-down situations with a little help from his blockers up front. Don’t be surprised if Frost finds ways to get him involved in the game plan as the Knights potentially go with a bit of a running back by committee in the next few weeks.
UCF hosts Memphis this week in a key conference battle, with the Tigers owning the fifth-best rushing defense in the AAC coming in. After that, UCF’s next two games are against Cincinnati and East Carolina. The Bearcats and Pirates have really struggled against the run so far this season, with 19 rushing touchdowns combined and an average of 264.0 and 274.5 rushing yards per game allowed, respectively. That would seem to suggest UCF has a good three-week stretch to figure out how best to use the running backs before having to make any final decisions for the second half of the season.