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Spring Training for UCF’s Big 12 Debut; Five Knights on our Radar

Kevyn Bryant II

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Monday marks the start of preparations for UCF’s football squad as they embark on their inaugural season in the Big 12.

Monday marks the commencement of the Knights’ fifteen scheduled practices, culminating in the annual spring game slated for 6:30 pm at FBC Mortgage Stadium on April 14.

The University of Central Florida’s football program has declared that the spring game will occur on a Friday night and the team will be divided into two squads known as the Knights and the Citronauts. UCF football announces Friday night spring game, squad split into Knights and Citronauts

NOTABLE PLAYERS FROM THE CENTRAL FLORIDA REGION: 10 prospects from the Orlando area high schools are currently being recruited by UCF for the 2024 class.

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UCF concluded their tenure in the American Athletic Conference with a 9-5 record, falling in the championship game to Tulane who would go on to win the Cotton Bowl. The Knights had to cope with the departure of their two coordinators prior to the Military Bowl, while a large number of players opted to enter the NCAA transfer portal.

UCF has added 25 new athletes to the Knights, 15 of them coming from high school and junior college, while the remaining 10 have been acquired from the portal. This should create an abundance of competition among some of the team’s more important positions, aiding in their transition into a Power Five status.

We will analyze six Knights that should be observed during the upcoming month, which are arranged in alphabetical order.

Bowmans’s Demarkcus

UCF made no effort to go after a running back in the 2023 recruiting cycle or to acquire one through the portal during the winter window of 45 days.

Isaiah Bowser has achieved his graduation and is striving to make his NFL dreams come true, leaving RJ Harvey and Johnny Richardson as the chief running backs. Additionally, Trillion Coles, Mark-Antony Richards and Jordan McDonald have all had their moments in the backfield.

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UCF’s DeMarcus Bowman has the potential to be a major force for the Knights in the Big 12. A five-star recruit, Bowman sat out last season after transferring from two schools, Clemson and Florida. His rushing stats from the 2020 and 2021 seasons totaled to 23 attempts for 113 combined yards.

Thomas Castellanos and Timmy McClain

Two individuals, Thomas Castellanos and Timmy McClain, are the focus of this piece.

We are doing something a little out of the ordinary, however, it is important to keep tabs on the quarterback reps, since the current starter John Rhys Plumlee shares his time between the Knights’ football and baseball teams. As of Monday, Plumlee was having a good season batting an average of .317 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, and seven stolen bases while playing center field consistently.

When Plumlee was injured, Castellanos used up a year’s worth of eligibility by entering the American Athletic Conference’s championship game at Tulane. This was the fourth time he played throughout the season, including a few other instances of relief duty. Even so, he demonstrated amazing dual-threat capability, especially in a 37-yard touchdown rush in a lopsided victory against Temple.

McClain, on the other hand, took measures to maintain his eligibility when he switched schools from South Florida in August, losing the competition to be the starter to Gerry Bohanon. The Sanford local was on UCF’s practice team throughout the last year, nevertheless he racked up 1,888 yards with five TD’s and seven interceptions in 2021 as a freshman.

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Darin Hinshaw, UCF’s new offensive coordinator, is allowing the four quarterbacks on the roster a fresh start and desires to increase the vertical passing game, thus possibly making the competition for the position more unpredictable than expected.

Henderson, Ja’Cari

Following Travis Williams leaving for Arkansas, Addison Williams, a co-defensive backs coach, has been appointed defensive coordinator. He will be tasked with addressing the weaknesses in the UCF secondary.

In December, Davonte Brown, a top boundary cornerback, moved to Miami to join his brother Damari. Justin Hodges, who was the starting nickel corner, was released from the team on January 20th after being arrested for home invasion robbery with a firearm and a mask.

Nikai Martinez appears to be the natural selection for the role, and Corey Thornton and Brandon Adams have both started on the outside before. Nonetheless, Henderson’s participation was heightened in the Military Bowl defeat to Duke. The gifted 6-foot, 165-pounder tallied his first three tackles and a pass break-up.

Ja’Cari, Demari Henderson (his twin brother) and Kam Moore, who were all sought-after recruits from Sanford Seminole in 2022, had impressive contributions as freshmen and appear likely to be integral components of the defensive team for the foreseeable future.

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The Person Known as John Walker

When the Knights brought on their prized recruit, he had already gotten some practice in as he signed his letter of intent in late December ahead of the Military Bowl. His record of success at Osceola High in Kissimmee, along with his talent, made it no surprise when he showed his worth in those few brief glimpses.

‘PROGRAM CHANGER’: On National Signing Day, John Walker of Osceola High School, who has been designated as an All-American, has become UCF’s most highly ranked recruit.

Malzahn commented on the first day of the early signing period that the player had his pick of destinations, with some schools showing “HARD” pursuit. Despite this, the player remained loyal and Malzahn believes he’ll make a great addition to the team.

The Knights should benefit quickly from Walker’s presence on the defensive line, with him joining Ricky Barber and Lee Hunter to create a powerful trio. Meanwhile, Tre’mon Morris-Brash and Josh Celiscar have already secured their positions as the starting edge-rushers.

Trent Whittemore: A Person of Note

UCF needs to make up for some big losses on the offensive line, especially left guard Samuel Jackson, right tackle Ryan Swoboda, and center Matt Lee who transferred to Miami.

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The vacancy at slot receiver is apparent, as Ryan O’Keefe has left to reunite with Darrell Wyatt at Boston College. Whittemore, a transfer from Florida, is one of the potential replacements and could bring a unique element to the team at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds.

Different Look:Trent Whittemore is shaping up to present a unique challenge for the Gators at slot wide receiver

Whittemore is on the brink of becoming the next Knight; his dad, the one-time Buchholz chief instructor Mark Whittemore, was a companion of Hinshaw’s in the mid-90s. He caught 33 passes in 29 matches for the Gators, amassing a sum of 425 yards and two touchdowns.

Chauncey Magwood, who transferred from Kentucky, along with second-year players Xavier Townsend and Quan Lee, plus redshirt senior Amari Johnson—having recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the whole 2022 season—are potential starters alongside Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson at UCF.

 

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UCF Knights

UCF Knights Secure Centerpiece Big Man for 2024-25 Season

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify for 2024-25 season.

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Moustapha Thiam

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify, making him eligible to play for the Knights this coming college basketball season.

Thiam, the No.1 center in ESPN’s class of 2025, will anchor the Knights’ defense in their second season in the Big 12.

The 7-foot-2 Senegalese impressed scouts with his terrific play at the Adidas 3SSB circuit, serving as the focal point of Austin Rivers SE Elite in the tournament. In 28 minutes per game, he averaged 5.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 1.0 steals.

 

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With Thiam joining a roster of seniors and promising young players, Johnny Dawkins’ UCF Knights is expected to outperform their surprising 7-11 record in their Big 12 debut last season.

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UCF has retained the service of Jaylin Sellers and Darius Johnson, the two top-scorers from last season, and secured commitments from a slew of transferees such as JJ Taylor and Mikey Williams from Memphis, Keyshawn Hall from George Mason, and Deebo Coleman from Georgia Tech.

The program has successfully recruited Cameron Simpson, a local standout from Oak Ridge in Orlando, Florida.

Scouting Report Provides Things to Expect from Moustapha Thiam

Moustapha Thiam is an enticing prospect because of his large 7-foot-2 size, impressive length, and quick-twitch movement.

As a true center, he can open his hips, glide laterally, and recover from switches.

While he has to gain muscle, especially considering his slight foundation and narrow shoulders, he is an excellent rim protector who can influence ball movement and play from the weak side.

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Thiam possesses a nice touch for pick-and-pop jumpers with his feet set and good hands for passes at chest level or higher.

As he continues to develop in each game, he will improve his decision-making skills. His size and physical tools set him apart from his contemporaries.

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Building Relationships with the Community: Gus Malzahn Winning Strategy

Tramayne Wright

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Coach Lo discusses how Gus Malzahn identifies the key figures within the local community in Central Florida.

 

Gus Malzahn had a vision. He saw the potential in the local sports scene and knew he had to seize the opportunity. Coach Lo Wood vividly remembers the strategic move that set Malzahn apart: reaching out to key figures in the community.

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“The first thing I recognized about Gus was how he instantly reached out to the guys in the community,” Coach Wood shared. “He called me up and said, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ And it wasn’t just talk. Gus meant it. He wanted to build something real.”

Mazzone’s approach wasn’t just about forming superficial connections. He sought out genuine relationships with influential community members. Soon, other notable figures like AG Waseem and Ellis Danley were echoing the same sentiment. “Next thing you know, there’s AG Waseem saying the same thing, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ Then he calls Ellis Danley with the same message. It was clear that Gus was building a network of trust and cooperation,” Coach Wood explained.

These were not random choices. The individuals Malzahn reached out to were deeply embedded in the community, and respected for their roles and commitment to the local youth. “Who are all these guys he’s been in a relationship with?” Coach Wood asked. “They’re the guys from the community, the ones who have the kids with them every day. They’re the mentors, the coaches, the father figures.”

Malzahn vision was to ensure that talented athletes didn’t feel the need to leave their hometown to find success. “I knew right then that a lot of athletes were going to stay home and be hometown heroes,” Coach Wood stated. “That’s the way to do it.”

He elaborated on the significance of this approach. “When you have someone like Gus, who invests in the community and builds these relationships, it creates a support system for the kids. They see that they can achieve their dreams right here, with the people who have always been there for them. It’s about pride, it’s about belonging, and it’s about giving back.”

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Coach Wood believes this method will have a lasting impact. “What Gus is doing isn’t just about winning games. It’s about building character, fostering community spirit, and creating a legacy. These kids are not just athletes; they’re future leaders, and Gus is showing them that they can lead from their own backyard.”

Malzahn efforts are not just about creating successful athletes; they are about nurturing future leaders who can lead from their own community. By building a strong foundation within the local sports scene, Gus Malzahn is making a lasting impact that will benefit the community for generations to come.

 

 

Coach Lo talks about The Importance of Building a Strong Community for the UCF Knights

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UCF Football Set for Black Friday Showdown with Utah Utes on Nov. 29

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

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UU vs. UCF

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

Fox Sports will broadcast the Knights’ final regular-season match on their 2024 college football schedule on November 29 from the FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

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The Knights had a solid run during their maiden season in their new league, finishing with 3-6 Big 12 record and 6-7 overall.

UCF won their first three games against Kent State, Boise State, and Villanova before pulling off a signature upset win over the No.15 ranked Oklahoma State, 45-3, last November 11.

Expectations are high for the Knights this coming season after securing the service of two-time Bowl Games MVP KJ Jefferson. The quarterback spent his first five years in Arkansas, setting most of the passing records for the Razorbacks.

UCF also bolstered other areas of their offense following the transfer of elite running back Peny Boone from Maryland and wide receiver Agiye Hall from Texas.

The Knights’ Black Friday game opponent, Utah, will debut in the Big 12 this season after capping their Pac 12 run with an 8-5 season (5-4 conference).

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UCF Football will kick off their second season in the Big 12 on August 29 against New Hampshire at home field.

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