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UCF Knights

Starting UCF QB job won’t be handed to transfer Brandon Wimbush

Florida Football Insiders

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Another successful recruiting classes in the books for the UCF Knights. And, everything continues to point in a positive direction with most outlets ranking the Knights with the best recruiting class in the American Atheltic Conference. This as, the second National Signing Day concluded on Wednesday.

However, just like many other college programs this February, one of the outstanding question marks for the upcoming season remains: what exactly will the Knights do at quarterback for this fall?

As you’re probably aware, their electrifying leader on offense, McKenzie Milton, was injured horribly in the regular season finale against USF last November. It is highly unlikely that Milton would be able to play at all this season, and honestly, may never play football again after the injury.

The Knights turned to redshirt freshman Darriel Mack to quarterback then the rest of the way in that game and also during their American Conference Championship game win over Memphis the following week. Mack lead UCF into the Fiesta Bowl against LSU ,but was largely ineffective trying to throw the football, as the Tigers up ended the Knights 25 game win streak on New Year’s Day.

UCF had already announced that Notre Dame graduate transfer QB Brandon Wimbush is now with the program and has been working out in preparing for spring football. However, at his Signing Day press conference Wednesday, Coach Josh Heupel made it very clear that the job is not being handed to Wimbush:

Wimbush just completed his redshirt junior season and was a successful starter in 2017. Wimbush threw for over 1,800 yards and rushed for over another 600 leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 record. He also set the Irish record for rushing TDs by a quarterback with 14 for that year.

However, he went to the bench this past season after the first three games being replaced by coach Brian Kelly in favor of Ian Book. Book led the Irish to six consecutive wins to get their record to 9- 0 before suffering a rib injury against Northwestern.

Wimbush replaced him in Notre Dame’s 42-13 romp over Florida State (above) in South Bend on November 10th. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for 68 yards in that victory.

Book then returned for the last two wins over Syracuse and USC to finish a perfect regular season. The Fighting Irish were blown out by eventual National Champion Clemson in the Cotton Bowl 30-3.

Back to Heupel on Wednesday, he said that he’s very pleased with the fact that Winbush does have big game experience over the past two seasons playing for Notre Dame and it’s great to have “competitiveness” in their QB room.

And that leads us to a third quarterback in the mix, and it is another freshman from Hawaii. Straight out of the mold of McKenzie Milton three years ago: Dillon Gabriel will come to the mainland from Mililani, Hawaii where he threw for nearly 10,000 yards and 105 touchdowns in his career and ended up breaking the Hawaii High School career record for passing yards.

Gabriel is 6 ft and 185 lb and similarly built in that regard to Milton. However, he’s not the same runner that Milton is, at least at this stage.

So, needless to say, there will be serious competition for playing time starting in the Spring and then, when we get to this fall in Orlando.

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UCF Knights

No surprise in Orlando- Wimbush will start as UCF QB

Florida Football Insiders

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A week away from their opening game of the 2019 season, the UCF Knights and coach Josh Heupel made the expected move of naming former Notre Dame transfer QB Brandon Wimbush, as their starter when they take on FAMU.

The school released the information through social media Thursday afternoon:

The reason the tabbing of Wimbush to start was expected was due to last year’s starter at the end of the season, Darriel Mack, suffering a fractured ankle in a non-football injury this summer. Mack has not been able to practice with the team while rehabbing the injury.

As for Wimbush, he just completed his redshirt junior season and was a successful starter in 2017. Wimbush threw for over 1,800 yards and rushed for over another 600 leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 record. He also set the Irish record for rushing TDs by a quarterback with 14 for that year.

However, he went to the bench last season after the first three games being replaced by coach Brian Kelly in favor of Ian Book. Book led the Irish to six consecutive wins to get their record to 9- 0 before suffering a rib injury against Northwestern.

Wimbush replaced him in Notre Dame’s 42-13 romp over Florida State (above) in South Bend on November 10th. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for 68 yards in that victory.

Book then returned for the last two wins over Syracuse and USC to finish a perfect regular season. The Fighting Irish were blown out by eventual National Champion Clemson in the Cotton Bowl 30-3.

As for Mack, he was seen recently without a cast or walking boot, but there is not a timetable for his possible return.

The red-shirt sophomore took over as the replacement for injured starter and AAC Player-of-the-Year, McKenzie Milton, last November. That’s when Milton was injured horrifically in the first half of the rivalry game with USF. Mack managed the first half lead that UCF had built on to a 38-10 win, which clinched a spot in the Championship game.

The following week, Mack heroically lead the Knights to a roaring second-half comeback over the Memphis Tigers. After trailing 38-21 at the break, Mack threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 59 yards and four more scores in the 56-41 victory.

Mack was not nearly as successful in the Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU, where he completed just 11 – 30 for a puny 97 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And, he had -3 yards rushing on 11 carries, as the Tigers repeatedly sacked him that day in Arizona.

The other healthy QB option to begin the year is true freshman Dillon Gabriel, who is a speedy dual threat QB from Hawaii and is right out the mold of Milton. In fact, Gabriel broke several of Milton’s high school state passing records, including most passing yards in a career.

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UCF Knights

UCF QB Mack Jr. looking healthier than expected

Abbey Radeka

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James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

While Miami has finally settled on a starting QB, others throughout the state have more quarterback questions than answers as the 2019 season rapidly approaches. One of those schools is UCF, who’ve been plagued by injury in the position. However, a photo released from practice on Tuesday shows once-expected starter Darriel Mack Jr. walking into the stadium without a boot.

Knights247 reporter Jason Beede was the first to notice the bootless QB in a photo released by the team. He shared the picture on Twitter.

UCF fans are beginning to make hopeful assumptions that Mack Jr. may still be able to be the Knights signal-caller this season.

We reported last month that he suffered what’s been called “a non-football injury” and has not participated in training camp.

Mack took over as the replacement for injured starter and AAC player-of-the-year McKenzie Milton last November. That’s when Milton was injured horrifically in the first half of the rivalry game with USF. He managed the lead that UCF had built to a 38-10 win, which clinched a spot in the Championship game.

The following week, Mack heroically lead the Knights to a roaring second-half comeback over the Memphis Tigers. After trailing 38-21 at the break, Mack threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 59 yards and four more scores in the 56-41 comeback win.

Mack was not nearly as successful in the Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU, where he completed just 11 – 30 for a puny 97 yards with one touchdown and one interception.  And, he had -3 yards rushing on 11 carries, as the Tigers repeatedly sacked him that day in Arizona.

His injury has left Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush as the likely option for the Knights. Wimbush left the Fighting Irish program as a graduate transfer and recently  landed at No. 64 on Pro Football Focus’ complete list of the top 130 quarterbacks in the country, making him one spot higher than the direct middle of the pack. 

PPF’s Cam Mellor had this to say about the QB

“No McKenzie Milton and no Darriel Mack lead way for former Notre Dame quarterback Wimbush to be the starter in Orlando for 2019. Wimbush played a great season in 2017 with the Fighting Irish but struggled a year ago before ultimately giving way to Ian Book in South Bend. In Josh Heupel’s offense, Wimbush should be able to use his strong arm and push the ball down the field well, up to those strong 2017 levels.”

Wimbush was a successful starter in South Bend in 2017. He threw for over 1,800 yards and rushed for over another 600 leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 record. He also set the Irish record for rushing TDs by a quarterback with 14 for that year.

The Knights also have a McKenzie Milton-like QB clone from Hawaii, again, in freshman undersized but speedy Dillon Gabriel. The 6’0 185lbs. Gabriel broke several of Milton and Marcus Mariota’s high school records in Hawaii, including most yards passing in a high school career.

But, with Mack looking healthier than expected, there could be a potential for him to reclaim his spot as QB1 as they start the season taking on FAMU. This certainly will aid in their efforts at an AAC “three-peat.”

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