April 2, 2012
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By John Denton, Knights Insider
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Latavius Murray burst around left end and just as he seemed to be hemmed in, he gave a hip and head shake that would likely draw raves from the judges on ``Dancing with the Stars,'' allowing him to keep running for a 22-yard gainer.
Minutes later with the UCF offense down near the goal line, Murray was pinned in again and used a similar shake and bake move only to be dropped for a loss this time. Almost instantly, UCF head coach George O'Leary came charging over to Murray, chiding him about doing ``too much dancing'' and not simply fighting for whatever yardage he could have gotten.
For Murray, UCF's most elusive running back, there's a fine line between knowing when to dance and when to dive. He is arguably UCF's most physically gifted player when factoring in his size (6-3, 222 pounds), speed (4.5 seconds) and power, but there's a push this spring to get him to run harder between the tackles while not sacrificing his creativity in making defenders miss on the outside.
``(Instructions from coaches) don't bother me because there's a point in time when I have to lower my pads and get those yards that I need. I take the coaching and try to do what it takes to make me successful,'' Murray said. ``I'm just trying to get my pad level down and be more physical as a runner. There is always room for improvement. As long as I go out there and work hard every day in practice those things will come for me.''
As they did much of last season with Brynn Harvey, Ronnie Weaver and Murray, UCF is again rotating three backs this spring. Murray is the solid starter, but he is sharing carries with dazzling University of Miami transfer Storm Johnson and Harvey. For the first time, O'Leary admitted that the Knights are looking into getting two of those backs on the field at the same time in an effort to get the ball in the hands of playmakers.
``You never have enough good running backs because the others are just a (sprained) ankle away. We'll use them all,'' O'Leary said. ``I think the versatility of Latavius really helps us because he's a really good receiver, too. But you could see a couple of those guys in the backfield at the same time this season.''
UCF resumes spring practice on Tuesday for its 10th practice. Just two weeks of spring drills remain with the 2012 UCF Spring Football Game Presented by PNC Bank serving as the finale on April 14 at Bright House Networks Stadium. Tickets are currently on sale by calling (407) 823-1000.
Murray entered last season with high expectations after winning the MVP awards for both the C-USA title game and the historic defeat of Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. But he admittedly struggled with the running back rotation from last season, failing to find much of a rhythm until late in the season.
He had 10 carries early in the year against Boston College and produced 72 yards rushing and a touchdown. But for whatever reason, he went six of the next seven games without getting more than four carries in a game. Murray longed for more action and knew he could produce, but realized that he was in a situation where he had to share time with two other backs.
``It was very tough. When you are a running back you want every carry and you want to carry the ball because that's what you do,'' Murray said. ``Every running back has to have the attitude that they want the ball in their hands. You pull for other backs when they get carries, but you want the ball, too.''
UCF's coaching staff turned to Murray late last season, especially after he displayed a knack of making big plays every time he touched the ball. He took a screen pass 53 yards for a touchdown to keep UCF close in the UAB game. And against Southern Miss, he returned a pooch kickoff 53 yards for a touchdown.
Murray was finally able to showcase his potential as an every down back in the final two games and he dazzled. He ran for 87 yards on 21 carries against East Carolina. And in the finale, Murray showed his resolve when he gashed UTEP for 233 yards and two touchdowns for UCF's fourth-best rushing day in school history. He added 24 yards receiving and a TD catch to cap off one of the best individual performances in school history.
``I think just finishing strong in that game helped carry over to next season for me and the team,'' Murray said. ``I just made up my mind that I was going to finish strong and make the most of the opportunity that I got. Now, I'm trying to keep doing that this offseason and carry it into the spring.''
Murray's hope is that his performance against UTEP will show that he can carry the load and become a workhorse back next season for the Knights. O'Leary and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe have plans of using him some at H-back as well to take advantage of his pass-catching skills, but Murray's hope is that he will be used as a feature back in the ground game.
``I think I can become that guy,'' Murray said. ``With my size and how I love running the ball, I think I could be that every-down back. I feel like I can be that workhorse guy for us.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.