The UCF Knights football team returned to practice yesterday, ready to build on a nearly perfect first year for head coach Josh Heupel, ending with a disappointing loss in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU.
In addition, Citronauty by Nature returns after a short hiatus. One of our main contributors, Alex Funderburke, has taken an internship with the UCF athletics department, so I will bring you stunning content, hot takes, and terrible puns.
Much has happened since the spring, so let’s recap…
Danny White vs. the World
For whatever reason (read: clicks), UCF’s scheduling philosophy remains the focus of national college football writers. Yet White and hoards of UCF fans engage uninformed and disingenuous people who would probably not give the Knights the benefit of the doubt until they played a schedule that included 6 SEC road games. Even then, folks would call them the Golden Knights and lament how the SEC is having a down year.
I am very much in favor of UCF taking one genuine 2-for-1 (no neutral sites) against an upper tier team (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc.) to beef up the schedule. But, it is a logical impossibility to keep agreeing to play 2-for-1s.
Home games matter.
The cult of football demands that we sacrifice at the local temple regularly, not solely acting as pilgrims wandering the earth (i.e., an Arby’s parking lot in Tuscaloosa).
Danny White has done an excellent job, and scheduling a team like FIU at this moment really could be a boon as FIU is on the up. Besides, scheduling blue bloods right now means we’ll play Clemson in 2032.
UConn Leaves the AAC
UConn administrators decided to leave the AAC to rejoin the Big East beginning in 2020, an ironic, short-sighted move that will surely lead to puzzling football scheduling decisions. Don’t be shocked to see the Huskies battling for the Civil ConFLiCT trophy versus St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) as 2020’s slate looks pretty full.
(Unexpected) QB Competition
McKenzie Milton’s devastating injury in the War on I-4 cast a pall over the end of what was really a terrific first season under Heupel for the Knights. UCF easily defeated South Florida and eventually found its footing against Memphis to win the AAC.
Darriel Mack Jr. performed well in those games considering the circumstances but really struggled against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, where the Knights lost by one score. Mack seemed to be in the lead for the starting spot coming into fall camp but broke his ankle leaving him out for the beginning of the season.
Mack’s absence paves the way for a QB competition between transfer Brandon Wimbush (ND), Quadry Jones, and Dillon Gabriel. Coach Heupel seems to be considering each and letting them compete.
This race will be fascinating, especially considering Mack’s mid-season expected return.
Transfers for Days
UCF welcomes several more transfers this fall. Just this week, oft-injured DT Malik Barrow announced his transfer to UCF. In addition, several defensive players will join the Knights from other teams including Cam Goode (Virginia Tech), Brandon Wilson (Indiana), Jordan Hayes (Duke), and Rico Kearney (VT).
Transfers and JUCO signings can be hit or miss for teams, but the Knights struck gold with Mike Hughes just a couple seasons ago.
It’s the ultimate bummer that preseason magazines and rankings codify teams before they hit the field. Teams are always in flux before that first whistle. Could Barrow shake off multiple ACL injuries and cement the Knights’ run defense that suffered at times last year? Can Wimbush ignite the Knights’ offense?
Heupel’s Real First Season
In a way, I’m glad the Knights suffered their first defeat at the end of the 2018 season. This team is now Heupel’s. Scott Frost and the undefeated Knights are now simply a closed chapter in a young program’s story.
A new season begins. A new chapter. The pen is inked, and the Knights are once again set to charge on.