The UCF Football team was in a very different place this time last year. Coach Scott Frost was wrapping up his first ever fall camp with the program and the quarterback position seemed to be set in stone. Senior Justin Holman was set to start and lead the Knights on offense for a comeback season after going 0-12 the year before.
But after Holman went down with a hamstring injury just two games into last season, freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton had to step up.
Despite struggling at times, Milton had a solid freshman season. He threw for 1,983 yards, 10 touchdowns and helped the Knights to the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
“We kind of threw him into the fire last year and had no intention of playing him last year until we had an injury at the quarterback position.” Frost said. “He suffered through some good times and bad times last year, and hopefully he’s learned from that and will be that much more ready to go this year.”
Milton adjusted quickly to the college level. He completed 194 passes, the most ever by a freshman quarterback at UCF, and averaged 198.3 passing yards per game.
Milton will get the chance to build on those accomplishments in his sophomore year after Frost announced at media day that he will likely be the team’s starter.
“I think I’ve just built so much more knowledge with the offense.” Milton said. “Just being better with my eyes and getting into my progressions a little faster.”
Frost and the coaching staff are optimistic that Milton’s improved skill set will help the Knights’ offense improve this season.
“I think McKenzie has grown up. He’s hitting a lot of the easy throws that he missed last year,” Frost said. “I think his mechanics are improved, his familiarity with the offense has improved, he’s made significant strides since last year.”
Quarterback Coach Mario Verduzco has also been pleased with what he’s seen from Milton in preseason camp.
“Where he went from last fall to last spring was dynamic and he’s made another jump from spring ball to fall camp,” Verduzco said. “So he’s more comfortable with every workout, every practice and he’s feeling pretty good.”
Along with Milton, the Knights will also have two freshman quarterbacks, Darriel Mack. Jr and Noah Vedral, on the roster this season. Despite being new to the team, they have wasted no time making a good first impression.
Vedral joined UCF from Wahoo, Nebraska and passed for 2,001 yards and rushed for 739 in his senior season. Frost commended him Wednesday for his summer preparation.
“I give Noah Vedral a lot of credit. I have never seen a guy so familiar with the offense coming in, before even taking his first snap at practice,” Frost said. “He really put a lot of time and effort in this summer and I think that kind of helped him jump ahead.”
After a slow start to camp, Mack Jr. has also begun to show his talents.
“Darriel has a ton of talent and it’s starting to show up,” Frost said. “The last two or three practices have probably been his best.”
With three quarterbacks in the mix, the Knights have many options on offense. Although Milton will likely get the starting nod for the season opener, as UCF fans saw last year, anything is possible. But regardless of who plays, the quarterbacks have all fit into the team well.
“It’s awesome. Our coaches do a great job of recruiting guys that are good guys that fit right in to the culture that Coach Frost and our guys are trying to build,” Milton said. “[Mack Jr. and Vedral] have been great for the team so far. They’ve been like sponges absorbing knowledge and they are pretty good players too so I’m excited to see what they do.”