ORLANDO - The UCF Football program will see new leadership behind center this Saturday when it takes on Navy. Although a freshman, Mikey Keene certainly received the approval of his former Chandler (Ariz.) High School Head Coach Richard Garretson.
Coach Garretson was at Servite High School in Orange County, Calif., one of the top programs in the United States, for 16 years as a high school football coach. He’s been coaching Chandler ever since leaving California and Servite, with a quarterback-minded approach being his specialty. It certainly helped Keene develop prior to him coming to UCF this past January.
Here’s what Coach Garretson said about Keene, beginning with an overview of Keene’s timeline at Chandler High School and his age.
“Mikey took over the reins (at quarterback) in 2019 when I took over the (Chandler) program,” said Coach Garretson. “You know his football IQ is beyond his years. Also, he’s a young kid. He’s not 19 years old. I think he just turned 18."
Coach Garretson also discussed some of Keene’s primary attributes and how they match with UCF’s new head coach.
“You take into perspective, his ability to lead, have people follow him, he benched over 300 pounds last year as a senior. He’s an incredible young man. UCF is in good hands with him.
“Coach (Gus) Malzahn knows how to coach offense and then that team rallies around you.”
Keene as an athlete, not just a football player:
“When he was a true freshman, Jacob (the starting quarterback) got hurt. So we had to have Mikey in the game. His first ball was a deep ball. It was third down and five. You know, just take the first down. No, not Mikey. He took a shot (down the field). He’s just kind of gone on from that point. He was a pleasure to coach.”
Regarding Keene’s transition to UCF Football:
“Think about it. The first time Mikey stepped on the UCF campus was when he arrived in January, because of COVID-19. He never had the chance to experience the campus from a recruiting perspective. Then, all the sudden, (UCF Head Coach) Josh Heupel takes off in two weeks. There’s Mikey left hanging. Not a lot of kids can deal with that, you know?”
Competing at UCF:
“I told him to go out and win the No. 2 (quarterback) position. When you are the No. 2 guy, you are one play away from being the No. 1 guy. Unfortunately that’s what happened with your quarterback. He’s (Keene) ready to go.”
What type of play will Keene operate the best?
“Well, he’s definitely a guy that can create and throw on the run. He’s probably the best guy I’ve had at doing that, including the guys that played in the Pac 12 and the NFL, and he has that innate ability to make those particular throws.
“He understands coverages, he understands protections, he understands fronts, he understands open and closed field. When he was here, he read if it’s an open field you read this side and if it’s a closed field you read that side. Mikey was the guy in complete charge of what was going on in high school here.
“When I have kids that get thrown into this fire, they’ve got a foundation that Coach Malzahn can go ahead and build off of so he’s not having to reteach.”
Keene’s best attribute?
“His biggest attribute is his ability to lead. He’ll lead those guys. He will.”
Who is Mikey Keene as a quarterback?
“Bottom line is, he’s a quarterback and he’s a playmaker.”
Relating to Keene making his first start:
“I don’t think the moment is going to be too big for him. Is there going to be anxiety there? Of course. It’s an anxious time to be a quarterback to begin with. He’ll get that under control. At the high school level, he was in the biggest games in the state of Arizona when we won two open-division championships. I mean, the dude never lost here.
“That’s incredible, you know? It’s not easy. He understands how to get stuff done.”
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