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UCF back at Spring practice with QB battle underway

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Monday was the first day of spring practice for UCF, and arguably their most intriguing unanswered question is: who will step to the forefront and quarterback Josh Heupel’s team in 2019?

Obviously, the starter from the last two and a half years and arguably the heart and soul of UCF, McKenzie Milton, is out with what could end up being a career-ending leg injury. So, someone else will have to the take over the controls.

Or could it be a “combination of someones” for the black and gold,  as this season gets underway.

There’s the returning starter from the end of last year, a transfer and a “Milton-clone” freshman from Hawaii. And, all three quarterbacks met with the media after the initial workout:

Redshirt sophomore Darriel Mack has the initial inside track to remain as the starter. Mack replaced Milton at the end of last year, starting with the regular season finale’ win over USF. He then, started and led the Knights to their victory in the AAC championship game over Memphis (photo above) the following week.

Mack then played the biggest game of his career starting against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. However, he was largely ineffective against the SEC powerhouse defense he went against and the Tigers stopped the Knights 25 game win streak.

Mack obviously knows Heupel’s offense and their personnel giving him the clear advantage.

Then again, another intriguing option is Notre Dame fifth-year transfer Brandon Wimbush. He came to the Knights in hopes of being able to become the starter by September.

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.

Wimbush told the media Monday that being given the chance to compete at a program like UCF was all that he was looking for in his transfer.

Then, for UCF, there’s the third opotion, true freshman Dillon Gabriel. He has followed in Milton’s footsteps from the Hawaiian Islands all the way to the Sunshine State. Gabriel is 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, there is no shortage of talent for Heupel to choose from in the upcoming battle this month and starting for real in August.

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