The attention was on his double duty day and it was a story to watch. UCF center fielder John Rhys Plumlee became quarterback John Rhys Plumlee on Friday night as he capped off a wild two week juggling act of practicing football in the morning and driving or flying to play baseball. Friday, Plumlee got a pair of hits and played into the seventh inning of UCF's baseball win over Memphis before hopping on a golf cart to make the short drive to the football stadium to quickly change and make it on the field to participate in the spring football game. While Plumlee got to FBC Mortgage Stadium after the start of the game, he trotted out on the field to a loud ovation and while his first two series didn't electrify the more than 17,000 fans in attendance, he did have his moments and perhaps showcased a sign of things to come in UCF's offense this fall.
Head Coach Gus Malzahn has said he wanted new offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw to go vertical more and UCF did that a few times during a half of football. Plumlee hit receiver Kobe Hudson on a deep pass for a 70-yard score. He also hit Javon Baker on a 35-yard pass, where Baker showed his next-level talents with the ability to adjust and make a catch in the air landing in the end zone. On the night, Plumlee was 10-17 for 236 yards and two passing scores. Thomas Castellanos also showcased his skills tossing a pair of touchdowns and finishing 7-13 for 105 yards.
While it's hard to gauge exactly what UCF's offense will be in a spring game, there are signs of how Hinshaw has tweaked Plumlee's mechanics and added some wrinkles to help the UCF be more explosive as they head into their inaugural season in the Big 12.
Plumlee's footwork has improved and his balance in the pocket is better. Hinshaw has worked on things like the importance of quickly making a read and getting the ball to the right place. Despite playing the position most of his life, Plumlee still had to get back to the basics of playing the position after moving to wide receiver(not his choice) at Ole Miss. The repetition matters and while Plumlee had his moments last season he was still learning the position again. With a full off-season to work on his skills, Plumlee believes he is much better at his mechanics, release, vision of the field and a feel for what Malzahn and Hinshaw want for their quarterback.
UCF's offense averaged 470 yards a game last season, so it's not like it struggled to score and move the ball. But Gus Malzahn now wants to open things up even more and take advantage of their talent at receiver and speed in the backfield to not have to rely as much on Plumlee or whoever plays quarterback to run as much but trust your weapons.
UCF's offensive line, like many in college football, has been portal impacted. The Knights lost but gained bodies up front. There is a new center in Bula Schmidt, who comes over from Fresno State(where now former UCF quarterback Mikey Keene works with a new center in Fresno). UCF added Marcellus Marshall from Kent State. Marshall had many offers as one of the top offensive lineman available in the portal. Amari Kight comes to Orlando after playing at Alabama. UCF's line will play a significant role in the offense's success. While there are new faces, this year's group might be deeper and better equipped for Hinshaw's offense.
The Knights have one of the more talented running back rooms in their new conference with the return of RJ Harvey, Johnny Richardson and Jordan McDonald. But they now add Demarkcus Bowman, from Lakeland. Bowman, who won the "fastest man on the team" event Friday night- and did it in impressive fashion, was one of the top players in the 2020 recruiting class. He was the second ranked running back in the nation when he signed with Clemson. After transferring to Florida, UCF added Bowman last year as he sat out while working with the scout team. Bowman is electric with the ball. Despite a fumble on his first carry Friday night, Bowman has the body, speed and skill set to play a big role in UCF's new and improved offense.
The Knights have plenty of options at receiver with Baker, Hudson and sophomore Xavier Townsend back. They will get help from Kentucky transfer Chauncey Magwood, Florida transfer Trent Whittemore. Dionte Marks and Jarrad Baker had big catches Friday night and Quan Lee, Amari Johnson, Jaylon Griffin and others provide depth at the position.
Plumlee, Thomas Castellanos and Timmy McClain all took snaps Friday night. UCF's offense went from a slow start to a stronger finish and there's a lot to like about UCF's offense. The offseason will be a chance to fine tune things and work on those mechanics and timing so when camp opens in August it's full steam ahead. The Knight's schedule is the most challenging in school history as they play nine conference games and have a tough trip to Boise State.
Its offense expects to be tougher up front, quicker on the outside and throw a variety of options in the backfield. John Rhys Plumlee has a baseball season to finish but the football is always within his reach to toss and work with receivers and fine tune the things he wants to be better at. His ability to stay healthy will be important for UCF's success and its line has to protect him but he needs to know when to run and when to trust the pocket. Darin Hinshaw wants all of UCF's quarterbacks to trust the play and let their playmakers do their job. Gus Malzahn believes his offense will be better this year for a variety of reasons as the grueling Big 12 schedule awaits...
Nuggets: Do you know how points the Florida offense scored in the spring game three years ago? Of course not, so stop worrying in April about the Gators ability to score in the fall...As the NBA Playoffs begin, get set for the talking head show marathon of debate over who the NBA MVP is. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all worthy candidates. The insanity is there are NBA media members and many who don't cover the NBA saying Jokic can't win a third straight because he hasn't anything in the playoffs or why you just can't give a guy a third straight award. You are not ask to vote on a three year body of work, you are asked to vote on one season.But we've made a joke of these awards based on year long debates because we have so much time and content to fill. All three players have a resume worthy of winning the award. I would vote for Embiid but won't argue with anyone telling me why the other two should win. The debate will get as boring as whether the Ravens should/will sign Lamar- oh wait, that's still going on...The Rays have finally lost a game, actually two...The Guardians lost again and the USFL is back...NHL Playoff start tonight. The Boston Bruins recorded the best season in league history in points earned. The President's Trophy goes to the team who earns the most points during the regular season. Only eight of 36 President's Trophy winners have gone on to win the Cup...Nothing like watching the person at the grocery store who looks at the Easter candy at 75% off but feels like the fresh non-Easter labeled candy is fresher and spends the extra money for it...
Final note: Florida strawberries are awesome but did you know California produces 90% of the nation's strawberries?