Otis An­der­son

Ver­sa­tile stand­out An­der­son wows new UCF coach­ing staff

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Murschel Staff Writer

im­presses the Knights’ new coach­ing staff.

As a fresh­man, Otis An­der­son had to learn a new of­fen­sive sys­tem at UCF.

Scott Frost’s up-tempo spread of­fense was pred­i­cated on speed and ath­leti­cism, two of An­der­son’s gifts. But it was the Jack­sonville na­tive’s abil­ity to thrive not only as a run­ning back but also as a re­ceiver that made him a unique as­set dur­ing the team’s run to an un­de­feated sea­son.

It’s Year 2 and An­der­son is back to learn­ing a new of­fen­sive sys­tem, this one un­der first-year coach Josh He­u­pel.

“More tempo and ev­ery­thing is go­ing faster,” An­der­son said of He­u­pel’s of­fense. “You re­ally don’t have a break. Ev­ery­body has to be on their toes on the side­line.

“I think I caught on to this one quicker just be­cause of the sim­ple rules they have to help you play faster.”

An­der­son showed off his ver­sa­til­ity last sea­son, break­ing off a 10-yard touch­down run in the clos­ing min­utes to seal a road win over Navy and catch­ing a 12-yard touch­down pass on a cru­cial drive against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

The value of his skills is not lost on the new coach­ing staff.

“He gives you the abil­ity to be mul­ti­ple in your for­ma­tions when you’re play­ing with tempo,” He­u­pel said of An­der­son. “I think that’s some­thing, if you’re go­ing to play with tempo, it’s crit­i­cal. He’s got the abil­ity to play in the back­field and then split out and play

“He gives you the abil­ity to be mul­ti­ple in your for­ma­tions when you’re play­ing with tempo.” UCF coach Josh He­u­pel on Otis An­der­son

the wide re­ceiver po­si­tion.”

The 5-foot-11 An­der­son fin­ished the 2017 sea­son third on the team in rush­ing with 69 car­ries for 494 yards and four touch­downs. He was also fifth on the team in re­ceiv­ing with 30 re­cep­tions for 351 yards and three touch­downs.

New run­ning backs coach An­thony Tucker has been im­pressed by his new charge.

“What makes it fun is when you’re in­volved as an of­fen­sive coach, you like guys that are dy­namic,” Tucker said. “Otis is a stu­dent of the game. He’s a lunch-pail guy. He comes to work ev­ery day and works his butt off. He meets more than any­body else meets as far as learn­ing the en­tire of­fense.”

Part of that learn­ing process for An­der­son has led to him spend­ing more time with the re­ceivers group this spring as he learns to be­come more of a route re­ceiver.

“We prob­a­bly ma­jored with him play­ing at the wide re­ceiver po­si­tion be­cause fun­da­men­tally tech­nique and un­der­stand­ing spac­ing, that’s prob­a­bly the hard­est growth pat­tern for him,” He­u­pel said of the move.

An­der­son said he’s fo­cused on mak­ing ad­just­ments.

“It’s just dif­fer­ent ways of run­ning their routes,” An­der­son said. “They run it dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous coach­ing staff. So it’s just me un­der­stand­ing how to use my hands and how to use my arms to run those cer­tain routes and just be­ing fast and not think­ing about it.”

He has im­pressed his coaches off the field as well.

“The dude is get­ting dang near straight As in the class­room and he takes care of busi­ness and he’s a young kid,” Tucker said of An­der­son. “He just got here. His ceil­ing is re­ally high.”

An­der­son said he takes his aca­demics se­ri­ously and knows he has to pre­pare for life with­out foot­ball.

“School work is very im­por­tant. That was the most im­por­tant thing to me be­fore I even came to col­lege,” he said. “Sooner or later you have to hang up your cleats.”

An­der­son, who is study­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said it’s been a much smoother tran­si­tion from his first spring to his sec­ond, es­pe­cially when it comes to bal­anc­ing life as a stu­dent and a col­lege ath­lete.

“I’ll say it’s get­ting eas­ier be­cause I un­der­stand how to use my time bet­ter,” he said.

While An­der­son said the run­ning back po­si­tion is his fa­vorite, he doesn’t par­tic­u­larly care where he lines up as long as he gets the de­sired re­sults.

“Run­ning back is some­thing I’ve been play­ing my whole life and it’s a lot eas­ier, but re­ceiver is just dif­fer­ent ways to get me the ball and just dif­fer­ent ways to help my team win,” he said. “Whichever is needed for me to play in a spe­cific time or sit­u­a­tion, I will play ei­ther.”

JOHN RAOUX/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Otis An­der­son’s fresh­man sea­son at UCF proved a pro­duc­tive one as the Jack­sonville na­tive show­cased his abil­ity to run and catch the ball.

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/SENTINEL FILE PHOTO

UCF WR Otis An­der­son has im­pressed first-year coach Josh He­u­pel and his staff with not only his ver­sa­til­ity, but also his speed, ath­leti­cism, knowl­edge and work ethic.

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