With fall camp now underway and the Knights just 23 days away from the opening kickoff against South Carolina State inside the Bounce House, it’s time for staff predictions.
Andrew Johnson | @RealNews
UCF Football heads into the new season with high expectations after finishing 9-4 and winning a momentum-building bowl game over the Florida Gators. Despite dealing with untimely injuries and transfers, 2021 was something to build on.
The Knights are now loaded with experienced talent, and the Gus Bus picked up nine players from the Transfer Portal. Ole Miss transfer John Rhyle Plumlee has battled returnee Mikey Keene for the starting quarterback position.
The electric wide receiver Kobe Hudson and defensive tackle Lee Hunter transferred in from Auburn. FCS All-American safety Koby Perry is now at UCF, and tight end Kemore Gamble (Florida) is a big-time receiving and blocking weapon. Head Coach Gus Malzahn added even more upside but this short list just shows how invested the coaching staff was this off-season.
Having key returners like running back Isaiah Bowser and cornerback Davonte Brown back to help lead both sides of the ball is a good feeling. UCF was 7-0 in the Bounce House a season ago and fortunately will have home-field advantage against each team it lost to (Louisville, Navy, SMU, Cincinnati). With year one under Malzahn’s belt, it’s time for UCF to get everything in place with Big 12 aspirations on the horizon.
Final Thoughts: UCF has a favorable schedule and a lot of positives but still some question marks. Deciding a starting quarterback before the end of fall camp will be important, as well as working out the linebacker depth chart. If they can somehow avoid the injury bug and stay the course, the Knights could be on a crash course with the Houston Cougars for the American Athletic Conference Championship.
Prediction: 12-1 record | Loss: Houston in the AAC championship game.
Jack Edwards | @jackedwards126
The Knights are in a good position as they close out their AAC tenure in 2022. Gus Malzahn has added upgrades as well as depth across the roster by way of the transfer portal. There will no longer be a true freshman starting at quarterback. Malzahn will have a full year of talent evaluation under his belt and a better understanding of how to utilize his roster.
The absolute floor for UCF is somewhere around eight wins, obviously barring extreme circumstances such as another slew of injuries like last season. It is hard to look at data and gameplay from last year and expect the Knights to regress, especially when taking into account those off-season additions.
The obvious hurdle in front of the Knights for 2022 will be Cincinnati. UCF will probably not be as dominant of a team as Cincinnati was last year. The Knights’ ceiling will likely depend on whether or not Cincinnati picks up right where they left off. Luckily for the Knights, Cincinnati lost a good chunk of its major contributors in the NFL Draft. The AAC East could very well be determined in the Knights-Bearcats matchup in Orlando.
Guilherme Leal | @GuiHiray99
2021 was a transition year for the Knights. A new Head Coach in Gus Malzahn, new quarterback for most of the season and a lot of injuries that took away the conference title hopes. Because of that, it is difficult to judge Malzahn’s work in his first year.
The 2022 recruiting class is promising and, with names such as John Rhys Plumlee and Kemore Gamble, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a big jump from UCF. Combining the new players with returners like Isaiah Bowser and Divaad Wilson should bring something special for the Knights’ season.
The main goal should be going out of the American Athletic Conference with a title, and the competition should be tough. Cincinnati lost some key players, but it remains a powerhouse. Houston is also a team to keep an eye on. I think those two plus UCF are the frontrunners for the AAC championship.
I can see UCF going 9-3, maybe 10-2 in the regular season. Some of the more complicated matchups will be at home, giving UCF a bit of an edge versus Louisville and Cincinnati, for example. I believe the matchup versus the Bearcats in October will be the game that decides whether the Knights will be back to the AAC championship game.
Overall, it should be a solid farewell season to UCF in the AAC. The team should have a good record and make it to a bowl but should not be forgotten in the conference conversation.
Collier Logan | @the_cheapseats1
The Knights finished on a high note last year, defeating the Florida Gators in the Gasparilla Bowl to post a 9-4 record in Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s inaugural season. Year two will reveal a lot about the direction of this UCF program and what the future may hold.
The Knights will have to figure out their quarterback situation quickly if they want to be competitive, but a strong rushing attack led by running backs Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson should give them a solid foundation to build on.
Defensively, the Knights have a strong secondary anchored by safeties Divaad Wilson and Quadric Bullard. UCF was sixth in the nation in passing efficiency defense and we should see more of the same this year. With a transfer-bolstered linebacking unit, this defense should be one of the best in the conference.
The goal for the Knights this year should be a trip to the AAC Championship. If a few things come together at the right time, they could close out their time in the American Athletic Conference with one more title.