After a turnaround 2016 campaign, coach Scott Frost is confident that UCF Football can get a win in Thursday night’s season opener against FIU at Spectrum Stadium at 6 PM.
A number of younger players were thrown into the fire last year, but with one season of college ball under their belts, the Knights are a more experienced unit heading into this season.
“We are just further along this year,” Frost said. “I think they [the players] do a better job of communicating, they understand what we want better. They were quicker to pick up the game plan this year because they were understanding of what we are trying to get done on both sides of the football.”
Last year, UCF made quite the statement against FIU, topping them 53-14 on their home turf. But this year, things have changed for the Panthers with the addition of legendary coach Butch Davis.
Davis, who is well known for his previous success coaching at the University of Miami, joins the program looking to help it improve after the Panthers struggled over the last few seasons. The new coaching staff has made it difficult for the Knights to know what they might be up against.
“To be honest with you we are taking a lot of guesses,” Frost said. “These guys are new coaches, they are coming from different places on the offensive side and defensive side so we are doing the best we can to piece together what we think they are gonna be running.”
Despite the addition of such a highly-respected coach, as well as facing a new system, the Knights’ players are still optimistic about how they will perform against the Panthers in week one.
“Really we have improved in all phases of the game,” redshirt-junior offensive lineman Wyatt Miller said. “I think that’s very important and it’s a good thing that all of us have been doing a good job of that.”
With sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton set to start on Thursday, the players are confident in his leadership and improved mechanics from last season.
“I think he’s definitely matured a lot,” Miller said. “Some of his decisions last year were a little bit shaky, but it’s like spot on now. So, he knows what he’s doing just like everybody, and he’s just done a great job so far of being a leader with his offense.”
On the defense, all eyes will be on redshirt-senior linebacker Shaquem Griffin. In his final season in black and gold, he is expected to have a huge impact for the Knights.
It seemed like he, more than any other player, was ready to get the season started.
“It’s gonna be amazing,” Griffin said with a huge smile. “Obviously it is going to be my first last game so you know, its that “wow” but it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just grateful to get in the Bounce House and celebrate with my fans.”
After lots of preparation, the team is excited to finally kick off the 2017 season.
“We have been looking forward to this since the end of last year. Our guys put in a lot of work this offseason,” Frost said. “Our guys are gonna be prepared and ready. They just have to go out and execute.”