Replacing Javon Baker at UCF

In January of 2024, Javon Baker announced he was leaving UCF for the NFL. Fast forward a few months, and he was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft. While fans and staff celebrate Javon’s success, the program must move on. Who will rise to fill the void of Baker and be new quarterback KJ Jefferson‘s top target?

Kobe Hudson

UCF’s second-best wide receiver in 2023 is back for one more season. Kobe Hudson is a strong receiver with decent size at 6ft 1in and weighing 199lbs, which is similar to Baker. Hudson had a successful season in 2023, hauling in 44 catches for 900 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also named Honorable Mention All-Big 12 last year. In prior years, he had the advantage of not being the primary target for an opponent’s shutdown cornerback, so he will need to rise to the challenge. He has experience being the top wideout, though. At Auburn in 2021, Hudson was the team leader in receiving.

Xavier Townsend

UCF’s third receiver is back after a breakout 2023 season. Xavier Townsend caught 33 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns but also ran it 15 times for 163 yards. Townsend is a dynamic player like his predecessor, Ryan O’Keefe. He can be a weapon anywhere on the field, including fielding kicks and punts. Xavier was the primary punt returner and split kick returner duties with running back Johnny Richardson. Townsend has the speed and shiftiness but is a little smaller at 5ft 11in and 185lbs. Townsend’s unique skills might keep him exactly where he is.

The Best of The Rest?

Perhaps the best replacement for Baker is neither of the usual suspects and is someone further down on the roster. Chauncey Magwood is expected to get an increased workload this year. Transferring from Kentucky in 2023, he played only four games before redshirting. His 2024 first impression struggled as he bobbled what became a Spring game interception.

A transfer from Florida and a legacy to the UCF program, Trent Whittemore appeared in all 13 games for the Knights but was used more as a blocker than a receiver. The biggest receiver on this list at 6ft 4in and 211 lbs, Whittemore has the build to be a possession receiver who can take a hit over the middle. Last year, he had three catches for 36 yards. He’ll see plenty of blocking action as UCF will be a run-first offense.

One of the older wide receivers on the roster, Jarrad Baker (no relation to Javon), has been a mainstay on special teams. Unlike Magwood and Whittemore, he did start a game in 2023 and was the leading receiver that day. Also, unlike Magwood, he had a good first impression at the Spring game, scoring on a 70-yard pitch and catch.

He’s Not On The Roster…Yet

UCF’s strength has been being able to bring in players through the transfer portal. UCF is a small name compared to blue-blood programs and has some difficulty recruiting freshmen against those programs. However, after being wined and dined and having a year of college under their belts, many players start seeing a bigger picture of where they should attend college. While the pickings for 2024 are starting to get slim, UCF is a young, modern university that is still growing, and head coach Gus Malzahn has been able to use the attitude that comes with being an upstart to help attract talent. Malzahn did bring in transfer Goldie Lawrence from Florida State, but he only stayed for a cup of coffee and transferred to Arkansas State after the Spring game. As of the publishing of this article, UCF is ranked 22nd in the 247 Sports transfer portal team rankings.

Photo Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports


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