Jordan Akins is not only back to his old self, but a new-and-improved version.
The 25-year-old originally signed with UCF in the Class of 2010, but opted to play professional baseball in the Texas Rangers organization. When his big league opportunity failed to materialize, Akins shifted gears in 2014 and decided to enroll at UCF and focus on college football.
Akins got his feet wet with a deep wide receiver corps in 2014, catching 12 passes for 135 yards. His role was to be expanded in 2015 with the thought he'd be UCF's top receiving target in addition to primary kick and punt returner, but an early-season ACL injury ended that.
Upon Scott Frost's arrival in 2016, Akins transitioned to tight end. He was still a big factor on the receiving front, finishing third on the team with 23 receptions for 347 yards. In two games so far this season, Akins has caught five passes for 102 yards with two touchdowns, matching his previous career scoring total.
"I don't think we saw the best of Jordan last year coming off the ACL from the year before," UCF coach Scott Frost said earlier this week. "He's put on a bunch of weight and he looks faster and more explosive. He's got elite ball skills and route-running ability and we're starting to see that. What I appreciate is he's starting to block better too and that's been a big part of the improvement in the run game. So he's done some really good things for us. He's an asset and a weapon for us on offense."
Akins says he feels like a much different player.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm actually playing without a knee brace. I feel a lot more looser. I know the offense a lot better. I'm able to play fast and use my ability to get open and make plays."
Akins says losing the knee brace has attributed to his increase in productivity.
"Having a knee brace you can really only get north and south," he said. "Without the knee brace I can be shifty and run better routes."
As for the tight end role in Frost's offense, Akins said he "loves" it.
"We spread the ball around," Akins said. "I think it's opened up plays for everyone, not only myself, but for the running backs and receivers also. I definitely love making plays and I love helping the team any way that I can."
He's a lot more comfortable in the tight end role too.
"The main focus was gaining weight and learning how to use the weight," Akins said. "Just learning the techniques and the fundamentals of blocking. Last year was my first with my hand in the dirt playing tight end. This year I've got a grasp of it. I'm perfecting it. I'm trusting the process and what the coaches are teaching me."