Article by Nick Williams. Photo by Jim Marshall.
Orlando’s hometown team is just a few weeks from their first kickoff in the Big 12 Conference. This season starts a new chapter for the Knights Athletic Department as well as the fans who support them. Despite some key players transferring in the offseason, Knight Nation has much to look forward to.
For many UCF fans who have rooted for the university since they were known as the “Golden Knights”, a familiar name has created a spark of interest. The return of Darin Hinshaw who just wrapped up his last season at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Hinshaw served as their Offensive Coordinator, setting single season program records for total yards, rushing yards, yards per game and rushing yards per game. He’s not shy when it comes to setting records, as those “Golden” Knights fans remember. As a quarterback at UCF he set every career major passing category record which includes yards, passing touchdowns, and overall touchdowns responsible for.
Twitter (now known as X) influencer Charles N., also known as “Dali Drama”, recently shared with me his thoughts on the upcoming UCF football season. Hinshaw was at the top of his mind when it came to progress this off-season.
“Does the prodigal returning son, Darin Hinshaw, unlock JRP’s potential? I need to see it.”
Dali Drama speaks for a majority of UCF fans this off-season who are desperate to see improvement in the passing game from John Rhys Plumlee (JRP). Despite his few inconsistent performances last season, the UCF fanbase has something to hope for when it comes to the 2023 JRP.
In the first preseason press conference, Head Coach Gus Mahlzan spoke about the improvements of Plumlee where he stated, he saw “a night and day difference”. Fans hope that difference will help the quarterback lead the Knights to Big 12 victories on the field.
UCF’s student athletes on the basketball team are looking forward to the season just as much as anyone else. Fan favorite walk-on point guard, Poopha “Pooh” Warakulnukroh got to share with me his expectations for the football team this year. Although the basketball team is joining arguably the best basketball conference in the nation, Pooh isn’t so worried when it comes to football.
“UCF football will start their journey in the Big 12 with a big exclamation point.”
A statement year for UCF would validate the football program and demonstrate to the doubters that their upbringing was not a fluke. For some fans this exclamation point might be securing a bowl game, going undefeated, or just having a better record than the other three newcomers. Maybe the exclamation point might look like John Rhys Plumee having a Heisman caliber year. The hopes and dreams of UCF fans will tend to vary throughout who you might ask.
Another side of the fan spectrum comes from UCF alumni who make the loudest noise when it comes to showing their passion for the team. Christopher Cabrera, a recent 2023 spring graduate got to share with me his take on Plumlee’s upcoming season.
“On JRP, I’m a fan of who he is, seems like a cool guy, but I do wish we had someone that has a better arm.”
Like most fans, Christopher is aware of Plumlee’s inaccuracy at times and also proves it’s common knowledge that Plumlee is a well-rounded, great person and proven leader. Through footage from pre-season camp we’re able to see Plumlee creating more accurate throws and tighter spirals that should allow UCF’s star receivers to create explosive plays. As we hope to see this transition into the regular season we can always fall back on Dali Drama’s statement if it doesn’t occur.
“John Rhys NEEDS to prove he can threaten to throw the ball efficiently. If he doesn’t, we’re in for a looong season.”
That we could be my friend.
Long season or not, these UCF diehards got to share with me their record predictions for the season as well. Not surprisingly, UCF Fans stay hopeful as their team enters a new conference with undeniably proven programs. One major factor of having this hope is the atmosphere the fans bring to the glorious “Bounce House.” Whether it's guys in astronaut costumes, families on vacation who want to catch a football game, or a rowdy and intimidating student section, the electric energy of the Bounce House is unmatched and unrivaled.
“I could see us going undefeated at home with a pulse. No road game is a gimme. Gut says 7-5."
If the Knights are to go undefeated at home this year, that would be six wins and a secured bowl game in their inaugural Big 12 season. This for many fans is enough and proves to be a solid first season where improvement is expected during the next off-season. The fans I interviewed felt the Knights could do a tad bit better.
“I predict our team is capable of winning at least 8 games this year. But personally I believe in our hard working players and coaches to find a way to win 10 or more.”
“Our final record this upcoming season is going to be 7-5.”
Whether or not the Knights achieve a bowl game or not this season, fans of UCF around the nation can be proud of the university’s progress. Being the youngest Power 5 school in the entire history of college athletics it’s easy to see that UCF is on the biggest rise out of all 134 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools. Whether the Knights win 6 games or lose 11 games, every Knight fan needs to make sure November 11th is marked on their calendars for the game against Oklahoma and former UCF QB Dillion Gabriel. It’s going to be a good one.
Charge on Knight Nation!