The UCF Knights will open up their football season tonight hosting South Carolina State. In his first season, head coach Gus Malzahn led the Knights to a nine-win season. As they enter year two under Malzahn, the team looks to make even more strides before entering the Big 12, next season.
On the offensive side of the ball, expect UCF to be run-heavy. This will give more playing time to Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson who lead a loaded running back room.
The Knights come into this season with one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football. This senior-laden group, that used the transfer portal to plug some holes, will give the running backs a chance to run all over the field and punch in a handful of touchdowns.
The offensive line will also protect quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. Plumlee was named the starting quarterback two weeks ago and will be leading a high-powered offense. Notably, the Knights have senior wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe and a trio of SEC transfers in Javon Baker (Alabama), Kobe Hudson (Auburn) and Kemore Gamble (Florida).
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, UCF has an experienced secondary and defensive line but questions arise when it comes to the linebacker position. The Knights were successful in the transfer portal, bringing in Jason Johnson from Eastern Illinois along with Baker, Hudson and Gamble. Johnson will start alongside Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, the only linebacker on the team with starting experience.
What to expect from South Carolina State
Last season, the Bulldogs captured the HBCU National Championship after winning the MEAC Championship. The Bulldogs defeated Deion Sanders’ Jackson State 31-10 in the Celebration Bowl.
Starting quarterback Corey Fields is back after throwing for more than 2,000 yards last season with 17 touchdowns. Wide receiver Shaquan Davis averages 20.2 yards per catch and MEAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year Jeblonski Green totaled 19.5 tackles for loss last season. Both Green and Davis are inside the top 10 of ESPN’s HBCU Preseason Top-50 Prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Look for South Caroline state to put up a fight, but the size and experience of UCF could ultimately overpower the Bulldogs.