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:
That's a wrap on the Class of #Knighteen‼️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) February 6, 2019
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.
USF and UCF got American Conference 2020 schedules Tuesday
On Tuesday afternoon the American Athletic Conference made official is 2020 football dates for opponents for its conference members. And, that means UCF and USF got to look for the first time at their full conference slates and when they are playing whom.
First for the Knights, they learned that they will open year three of coach Josh Heupel’s conference play on Thursday night September 24th at East Carolina. It is one of three stand-alone weeknight(day) games UCF has on their schedule.
The next one will be Friday night October 16th, as UCF travels to play the Memphis Tigers. That’s a team that the Knights defeated for two Conference Championship Game victories in 2017 and 18.
— American Football (@American_FB) February 18, 2020
UCF will also play a traditional “War on I-4” game with the rival Bulls on the Friday after Thanksgiving November 27th. This will be the fourth straight year of playing on “Black Friday.”
As for the Knights other part of the league schedule, they will have their AAC home opener with Tulsa on Saturday October 3rd and then, finish the slate with two huge home matchups with Temple Saturday November 14th followed by Cincinnati at Spectrum Stadium the following week.
For the Bulls, who welcome first year coach Jeff Scott in 2020, they will only have two standalone appearances in conference play. Those will be a Friday night home game October 23rd with Tulsa and then, the previously mentioned final rivalry game with UCF on Friday November 27th.
The Bulls first conference game of the season will be at Cincinnati on October 3rd, while the home opener is East Carolina the following week at Raymond James Stadium.
USF has a tough road slate beginning at Temple on October 17th and then, after the Friday night home game with Tulsa, playing at Memphis November 7th and at Houston November 14th.
The conference is playing 2020 with only 11 members, as UConn has departed and gone back to the Big East. This will also be the first time that the AAC doesn’t play a two six team division format and will instead take the top two ranked teams in conference play for it’s December Championship Game.
Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl
One-player eager to start showcasing himself Saturday afternoon in the pre-draft process in St Petersburg is former UCF speedster RB, Adrian Killins.
Killins ,who just finished four years of highlight runs and touchdowns for the the Knights will participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) December 2, 2019
Killins is generously listed at 5’9 and 165 lb. and came UCF without much fanfare from Daytona Mainland High School. However, he had been an explosive player on the football gridiron, and he was also a former two time 3A State 200m track champion before coming to Orlando.
Once at UCF in 2016, Killins immediately showed off his explosiveness and moniker of “fastest player in college football” with a 100-yard kickoff return at ECU and an 87 yard touchdown run at “the Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he was named First Team All American Athletic Conference RB, as he rushed for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead UCF. He showed versatility and caught another additional 25 passes for 169 yards.
He also set a UCF record for longest play from scrimmage that still stands, in the UCF regular season win over Memphis, as he took a handoff and the looked like a missle racing down the sideline:
Longest run in @UCF_Football history ✔️
Longest run in @American_FB history ✔️
2nd-longest in NCAA this year ✔️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Killins helped the Knights experience their greatest season ever at 13 – 0 with not only a thrilling double-overtime conference title game rematch win over the Tigers, but a New Year’s Day upset of SEC Powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl for the perfect season.
His next two years under Josh Heupel and his new coaching staff were not as spectacular. But, he still he would make the occasional explosive run and finished his career with over 1,700 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
He did leave a final impression with his 115 yards and 1 TD in the regular season finale with USF.
Now, he knows that with his smaller size, even with blazing speed, he will be challenged to stick on an NFL roster, and another way might be as a kick returner. Killins left UCF with a career 21.8 avg on 47 returns as a Knight.
He will likely need to show that part of his game to help him get a realistic shot at the next level. And, we wait to see if there will be explosive plays from him Saturday.