Former Auburn football head coach Gus Malzahn was called the best of the new Big 12 coaches by Heartland College Sports’ Bryan Clinton — who feels UCF is the AAC/Independent transplant to the conference best prepared for the jump.
“The Knights enter the Big 12 with the best head coach (Gus Malzahn) and the best quarterback (John Rhys Plumlee) of any of the incoming teams, instantly vaulting them to the top of this list,” Clinton wrote. “Offensively, the Knights should be dangerous despite the departure of receiver Ryan O’Keefe. On the flipside of the ball, UCF returns six starters but has a new defensive coordinator in Addison Williams. Still, the Knights have a strong roster of Florida-grown talent and should be comfortably better than the other three teams on the list, barring a surprise.”
Malzahn is returning a quarterback in John Rhys Plumlee who had over 3,000 all-purpose yards in a potent UCF offense and is handing the playcalling reigns to former Knights standout Darin Hinshaw as he shifts his focus full-time to recruiting. Hinshaw helped UAB set a program record for total yards (5,697), rushing yards (3,063), yards per game (438.2), and rushing yards per game (235.6) in 2022. The defense is less certain, but the Knights did add talent in the secondary and linebacker room via the transfer portal.
Former Auburn football HC Gus Malzahn can set UCF up for long-term Power Five success
Malzahn has a chance to bring UCF to a new stratosphere in the state of Florida with the jump to the Big 12. The Florida Gators have fallen off in recent years under Billy Napier, while Miami seems stuck on the hamster as a perennial underperformer no matter who is at the helm with their stadium so far off campus that it feels more like a neutral field than any other Power Five school. Florida State is the one program with the potential to win anytime soon, but its recent history prior to 2022 was as equally suspect as the other Sunshine State schools.
If the Knights can become a Big 12 contender, in-state recruiting should only improve, and UCF could well move ahead of one or more of those schools in many respects very quickly.