Written by Ernie Casanova
ORLANDO, FL— The UCF Knights hosted their annual spring game this weekend and it gave the public a quick glimpse of what to expect this upcoming season. Although a lot of the returning starters didn’t play, coach Josh Heupel had his quarterbacks take on display, clearly stating that it’s anyone’s job to win. Senior Brandon Wimbush, who transferred from Notre Dame, is expected to battle for the quarterback position redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. took over when incumbent starter McKenzie Milton went down for the year due to a gruesome knee injury.
In comes Mack to lead a late-season surge to advance into the 2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl, only to fall to LSU. Still, the Knights held their head up high and go into this upcoming season just as talented as the years prior.
Heupel inherited an undefeated program and led them to another perfect record up until their bowl game, and they are far from over. Bentavious Thompson, a redshirt sophomore running back, showed off some of his skills in the backfield today and capped off an impressive performance with an 18-yard touchdown run. Another highlight of the day was by redshirt freshman Quadry Jones who threw a 73-yard bomb to sophomore wide receiver Rashaan Moore, for the touchdown. “I’ve improved a whole lot since I first got here,” Jones said of his progress this spring. Jones is a possible staple for the future as Heupel let some of the new guys run around today and get loose.
One thing that will be on the Knights’ mind is how to successfully replace so much experience on the defensive side of the ball. They have to rebuild a line that has lost four of their five leaders in tackles and also replace two talented safeties. The all-around Pat Jasinski is gone, and they have the likes of Pitt and Stanford on their schedule. On the bright side, whoever the signal caller is will have a multitude of weapons on their side. Whether it’s Mack with the huge upside or the battle-tested Wimbush, the likes of Otis Anderson, Greg Mcrae and Adrian Killins remain at the running back position to create a formidable 1-2-3 combo.
Also, on the outside is Gabriel Davis and Tre Nixon who were just as important last season for this Knights team in combining for 1,377 total receiving yards. Marlon Williams looks to fill in the shoes of Dredrick Snelson at the slot-position while junior tight end Jake Hescock looks to make a name for himself with an overpowering stature at 6’7. The offensive line is not a worrisome issue, considering Jordan Johnson and two other all-conference players are returning.
The Knights had a terrific defense last year, especially in the red zone. While it looks like the offense will successfully flourish in the high-octane game as it did in the past two years, UCF will need to do some major adjustments throughout the next couple of months to ensure that they will be ready on the defensive side of the ball in defensive coordinator Randy Shannon’s second year.