With just 2 weeks until UCF’s first game of the season, Coach Frost is still looking to sure up the depth chart, with the biggest holes to fill on offensive guard and at defensive back. Junior Receiver Tre’Quan Smith and Sophomore Quarterback McKenzie Milton headline 9 returning starters on offense, who will need to step up as leaders on this young offense if they want to improve on last year’s record. Milton will also need to improve his consistency this season, after throwing 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in his 10 games started as a true freshman.
He will have some weapons to play with this year, with a receiving core of Tre’Quan Smith, Junior Cam Stewart, and Sophomore Dedrick Snelson, who is looking for a breakout year in his second season with UCF. At the tight-end position, the Knights will rely on the experience of 2 returning players who split starts last year in Redshirt Junior Jordan Atkins and Junior Jordan Franks. Both have played multiple positions on this offense in their careers, and will be asked to solidify a receiving group that will be looking to put up points this season. The Knights leading rusher from last season, Sophomore Jawon Hamilton, will look to build on his successful 495-yard freshman campaign, as he will lead a young group of RB’s this season.
Defensively, the Knights are returning just 4 starters, but have plenty of game experience at all facets of the team to build what Coach Frosts says is a defense with more depth. The Knights will look to last year’s AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Junior Linebacker Shaquem Griffin, to provide leadership on this new look defense, and to make up for any lack of starting experience this season.
The biggest question mark on defense is at defensive back. Coach Frost and Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander feel confident at safety though, with Redshirt Juniors Kyle Gibson and Tre Neal having the most game experience. Alabama transfer Redshirt Sophomore Shawn Burgess-Becker will solidify this group heading into the first game. At corner, the Knights are replacing their top 3 corners, and will look to Senior Chris Johnson and Junior Rashard Causey to man the outside until the Knights get Neville Clarke back at mid-season. Coach Frost will look to finalize the starting depth chart the week they begin to prepare for their first game against FIU, to give the starters a good amount of reps together under the first gameplan, and hopes that an improved team culture will bring team success this season.
In just his second year as Head Coach at UCF, Scott Frost is seeing this culture improve every day, with the comradery between players growing to the point where he doesn’t have to push them to get together outside of practice. It is because of this that Coach Frost and his team believe they will overcome any lack of starter experience, and why they believe they are destined for greater success this season. When asked about what would constitute a successful season, Senior Defensive Back Chris Johnson said “Just everyone coming together, as a team, the unity we have will show every night on the field.” The Knights will look to show this unity in their first game against FIU on August 31.
UCF’s season begins at home inside Spectrum Stadium on Thursday August 31 at 6 p.m. against FIU on CBSSN.