UCF didn't seem to skip a beat after losing head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. Josh Heupel felt like the perfect replacement given coaching styles and it showed last season as UCF strung together another undefeated regular season and added another conference championship trophy to the collection.
Although their 2018 season ended with a loss and star quarterback McKenzie Milton went down with a serious injury, there are still some reasons to be optimistic about UCF in 2019.
5 Storylines to Watch During UCF’s Spring Practice
1. Is this now Brandon Wimbush’s team?
The status of McKenzie Milton is still unknown for the upcoming college football season, but count him out of action for the spring regardless of the future holds for him. Darriel Mack Jr. took over after Milton’s injury late last season and has the benefit of some playing time in Josh Heupel’s offense. But Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush is ready to get started and make his case for the starting job. If Milton is not going to be in the picture in the fall, this could be Wimbush’s chance to stake a claim for the starting nod in the fall.
2. Can UCF tighten up on defense?
As explosive as UCF is on offense, last year showed opposing teams could move the ball and score on the defense far too often. Although it rarely hurt them because of their ability to put points on the board in a hurry, UCF knows it has room to improve on defense. The Knights allowed an average of just 22.7 points per game last season but gave up 40 points in their last two games. This could be a case where a good amount of roster turnover may actually be a benefit. The linebackers should be a strength but the defensive line will have some starting jobs to sort out with just one returning starter.
3. UCF's strong running game should continue
One stat that may have been overlooked by some last season is just how good UCF was running the football. Milton may have been the star of the offense but the running game was in great hands with Greg McCrae and Adrian Killins Jr. Both are back for more this season, and Otis Anderson should find a way to get involved too. With a steady offensive line basically ready to go, UCF should have little problem working their running game once again.
4. The coaching staff is all back
In a sport with so much coaching turnover between head coaching changes and the busy assistant coaching carousel that goes with it, UCF can take comfort in familiarity this spring. Every member of Heupel’s coaching staff is back in 2019, which allows for stability that can lead to progress. These are the coaches who know what happened last year the best, and the hope is they have taken the time to determine what needs to happen to put together another conference championship season.
5. Lessons learned by Heupel?
Did Heupel learn anything from his first season as head coach? Will any of those lessons help shape how he directs things this spring? It’s difficult to pinpoint too many concerns with Heupel’s first season when the Knights went undefeated in the regular season and won the conference championship before being edged by LSU in the Fiesta Bowl, but spring is a good time for any good coach to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work over the past year. From spring practices to anything that happened in the fall, now is the time for Heupel to address any areas of improvement he saw in 2018 to make sure they don’t pop up again in '19.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
(Top photo courtesy of @UCF_Football)