UCF already has an early threat for the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year in John Rhys Plumlee, who is making his return to the Power Five stage. But it just so happens that his projected No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers – Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson – are making their P5 returns, putting them on early watch for the title of the conference’s best WR duo.
UCF Duo Once Were Fierce Rivals, Now Allies
It wasn’t long ago, Baker and Hudson were on teams with bad blood toward one another—and in a state where one has to choose a side and stay on that side.
Baker got his start at Alabama as a prized 2020 four-star prospect out of McEachern High in Powder Springs, Georgia. He was projected to emerge as a day three pick for the Crimson Tide by 247Sports’ Charles Power. Baker was part of a famed Tide class that included two future top three picks named Bryce Young and Will Anderson.
Hudson, meanwhile, was his own four-star prospect from the same state as Baker—but from Troup County in LaGrange. And though he had an opportunity to be Baker’s 2020 teammate, guess which school he chose instead? Hated rival Auburn.
Now, both are prized transfer portal additions for UCF—and have proven to do damage in unison for the Knights.
Both are Dynamic and Man Coverage Destroyers When on the Field Together
We’ll start with the fact that both are 6’1″. But height isn’t the only thing that makes them nearly identical. They’ve similarly destroyed man coverage in the American Athletic Conference when Rhys Plumlee looked to them.
Beginning with Hudson, the former Auburn Tiger shows his ability to separate, then forces defenders to look at the back of his numbers while on his way to the end zone.
Hudson proves he can finish his way into the end zone, especially with only one defender in the way. He shows he’s equally damaging when in motion, including when the Knights are inside the red zone.
UCF back in front! Mikey Keene connects with Kobe Hudson for both of their 2nd TDs of the day!
— American Football (@American_FB) November 5, 2022
Though he caught below 40 catches, Hudson still led all UCF wideouts with seven touchdowns.
Baker has proven to be a back-corner king even if there’s a cornerback attached to his hip – with this example against AAC heavyweight Memphis. Baker additionally shows zero fear in coming back to the football, even if it means multiple defenders being near the vicinity as seen in this clip.
But even at 6’1″, Baker shows he’s not hesitant to go up and get it.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 18, 2022
Baker, though, additionally knows when to stretch out his body and extend for the high-concentration catch even with a corner nearby in the end zone.
Again, like former rival Hudson, Baker is a route separator in solo coverage and ends with a catch or six points. Baker has also shown his run-after-catch prowess by busting out the jukes after this grab, proving his ability to be more than just someone who can jump and separate.
Pro Football Network’s own Ian Valentino is one who has Baker on his early NFL Draft prospect radar among UCF players, writing:
“One of my favorite players in the class to watch, Baker has a solid build at 6’1″ and 197 pounds. He’s not someone who will create a lot of separation, but his competitiveness, ball skills, and ability to create after the catch are superb.”
How Do They Measure Up With Other Dynamic Big 12 WR Duos?
It’s way too early to anoint the Knights as the top WR duo in a conference known for producing stout wide receiver play.
Texas is coming in with more than just two options. Potential Day 1 draft pick and CFN’s No. 1 Big 12 receiver Xavier Worthy, returner Jordan Whittington and Georgia transfer Adonai Mitchell are expected to form a three-headed monster for the Longhorns. They also have towering 6’4″ Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor healthy in Austin, after missing 2022 with a torn ACL.
Up north in Lubbock, Texas Tech is known to have a wide receiver-friendly system. And this year’s Red Raiders have CFN’s No. 2 ranked Big 12 WR Jerand Bradley and Austin Peay transfer Drae McCray. Even more north in the next state, Oklahoma boasts last season’s breakout star in Norman Jalil Farooq and Michigan transfer Andrel Anthony.
But UCF isn’t the only Big 12 newcomer with an intriguing duo. BYU’s Keanu Hill and Kody Epps are an explosive pairing when together and given the ball; the former is equipped with size and speed and the latter is known for his joystick elusiveness.
By the looks of things, the deepest WR room resides in the Lonestar State’s capital. However, UCF’s duo is one to be taken seriously in their promotion to the Power Five…and in the P5 return for Baker and Hudson.