The looming question everyone wants to know the answer to is: Will the Knights rebound after a winless 2015-2016 campaign and compete enough for a championship?
The answer? No. But they will still compete and finish with a record of 5-7 in my projection for the 2016-17 season.
With new head coach Scott Frost at the helm, the man formerly behind the offensive machine known as Oregon and former mentor to the now Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, UCF may once again see a winning program as he and his new staff believed they have the answer to solving last year’s lack of offensive presence.
Scoring 13.9 points a game, putting up only 975 rushing yards and 2,246 passing yards in the entire season, fumbling 17 times, committing 64 penalties for 541 yards, punting 75 times and having a 29 percent conversion rate on third downs, it’s no wonder the Knights marched out on the field once a week only to see their student section lose half of its occupants by the end of the first half last year.
So when word got around that UCF would be fast, the university decided to come up with #UCFastival. But what nobody expected from watching the spring game classic on April 16 is just how fast UCF really would be.
From the moment they came out of the tunnel, it was a speed display. Not a second was wasted on offense for Teams Gold and Black, giving no one a chance to figure out where the ball was placed and what yard line the ball was on. Up in the press box, the majority of reporters didn’t have enough time to stop and see who caught the ball and how many yards he collected on the play.
For the defense opposing Frost’s brainchild, rushed by countless no-huddles, their main focus was getting back to the line in time for the start of the next play.
But maybe that was the point. During real-game situations, coach Frost probably aims to keep the coaches off rhythm with his offense’s speed. The result would be defensive players on the field wandering around like chickens with their heads cut off, in awe of the UCF offense that never seems to stop for a breath.
It’s a bold strategy. If it were to work as Frost and his staff drew it up on the chalkboard, the offense would have no problem scoring on the first couple of drives before the defense would be able to adapt. It would then, theoretically, be up to the defense to hold the line. For it to work, Frost would need three things specifically: a strong horde of running backs able to push through the line and break tackles time after time, a passing game that erases incomplete passes out of the equation and a play-maker to take the snap, organizing the men as quickly as possible on the line while interpreting a sideline signal.
In the spring game classic, we saw all of those things. We saw offense and defense collide in front of a record-breaking attendance of 23,147 people, resulting in a very entertaining and “light at the end of the tunnel” feeling game. If there was anything we could have learned from the game in which Team Gold beat Team Black 21-10, it’s that maybe Frost’s plan could actually work. He may not have a Blake Bortles or Mariota at his dispense, but he has enough weapons in the depth chart with wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, tight end Cal Bloom, and running backs Taj McGowan and C.J. Jones to do some damage. He also has quarterbacks senior Justin Holman and redshirt senior Nick Patti to lead the charge while the young Garrett Kruczek matures his football skills.
Team Gold’s scored 7.1 points more than the 2015-16 average. We also saw solid defense filled with multiple sacks and a couple of interceptions, with no fumbles at all. 11 sacks were recorded in total, four of which coming from Team Gold twin players, Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin.
Gold team’s Kruczek connected with Bloom for a 37-yard pass to enter the red zone. Jones then took the ball into the endzone for an eight-yard rushing score. After a 31-yard pass from Holman made its way to redshirt junior Trey Anderson, McGowan then tallied his own rushing score with an 18-yard rush. Team Black’s redshirt sophomore Tyler Harris somehow found redshirt junior tight end Michael Colubiale, who in the midst of being covered by three defenders, jumped up and made the catch for a 37-yard touchdown.
In the final seconds of the game, Kruczek found an unlikely target in redshirt sophomore, second string punter and tight end Mac Loudermilk. While deep down the field, Kruczek connected with Loudermilk for a 46-yard touchdown, dragging a defender on his back from the 10-yard line of the red zone into the endzone.
Loudermilk added that he played a little quarterback in high school, so he could easily become a triple threat player, key in trick plays fans love to see on a big fourth down.
Evan Abramson is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. You can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Abramson and email him at EvanA@centralfloridafuture.com.