Spring Position Preview: Quarterbacks

ORLANDO ( – When McKenzie Milton went down with an knee injury in November things changed. It sidelined the Heisman candidate for the final three games of the season and at least the upcoming 2019 season.


Redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. – who had seen minimal action prior to that – stepped up heroically and finished the game at South Florida, leading UCF to the 38-10 victory.


Mack then returned home, where head coach Josh Heupel and the staff had a week to prepare for the American Athletic Conference Championship against Memphis. Mack again excelled, winning Most Outstanding Player honors after throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for four more.


Everyone has heard the end of this story. The Knights lost in the Fiesta Bowl to LSU, snapping the program’s 25-game winning streak.


Mack gained valuable experience under center in those final three games, and returns as the only UCF quarterback on the roster who has thrown more than one pass in the Black and Gold.


That one pass was from redshirt freshman Quadry Jones who played in one game in 2018, and threw one pass on a trick play that resulted in a 42-yard touchdown pass in a win at ECU. That’s right. Jones comes into 2019 with a career passing efficiency rating of 782.80.


With Milton out and only one year of experience for Mack and Jones, Heupel bolstered the quarterback room with a seasoned veteran and a highly touted rookie.


Brandon Wimbush, who started all 12 games at Notre Dame in 2017, chose to come to UCF following the 2018 season as a graduate transfer.  A dual-threat quarterback, Wimbush rushed for 803 yards in 2017 and had a 2.14 career interception percentage with the Irish, both the second best in school history.


“His physical skill set fits the things we want to do,” Heupel said of Wimbush. “He wanted an opportunity to have an open quarterback battle, to come in and compete. He’s handled himself in a great way.”


The Knights also brought in Dillon Gabriel, who attending Milton’s Mililani High School in Hawaii. He broke all of Milton’s high school records. In fact, he broke the Hawaii High School career passing yards record and was named the 2018 Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year.


The four quarterbacks have battled this spring, but they’ve embraced it. The quarterback room continues to be a brotherhood.


“The entire quarterback group has embraced one another,” Heupel said. “They like being around each other. They have fun in the meeting room together. They compete in a positive way and our football team has taken notice of that.”