UCF names new coach, hopes for resurrection

UCF names new coach

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  • | 5:28 a.m. December 3, 2015
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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On the tail end of the worst season in UCF football history, 0-12, the Knights are talking like winners again. By Tuesday early morning the rumors were flying. Within hours they were confirmed; Oregon’s Scott Frost, not Bowling Green’s Dino Babers, was UCF’s would-be savior.

It had been a whirlwind process to find a new coach fast in the dwindling days of the doomed 2015 campaign. But new UCF athletic director Danny White said it became obvious who the team’s new coach would be when they finished talking to Frost.

“The process was swift, obviously. I think it was 13 days ago that I sat in this room, something like that, before we started, but we started with a large list,” White said at a press conference introducing Frost. “I think when Coach Frost left the room, Dr. Hitt, your quote to me was, I think he said, ‘Danny, I think you found your guy,’ and you were right. There was one person that really stood out.”

Frost’s style of play is expected to differ dramatically from an old-school, defense-heavy UCF team of longtime head coach George O’Leary’s tenure.

Coming off a season that saw UCF’s offensive production cut in half compared to when the Knights faced No. 5 Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl just 23 months prior, the Knights are now preaching “offense, offense, offense” as if they were already tearing up the Bright House lawn.

The rationale rings true enough: Frost was the architect of the No. 6 offense in the nation at Oregon this season. While the Knights knew when to pack their bags for the offseason by the middle of October, the No. 16 Ducks were punching their ticket to bowl season, finishing 9-3.

The Ducks were one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses in 2015, averaging 548.2 yards per game, or more than double UCF’s output. The Knights and Ducks shared one opponent this fall: Against Stanford, UCF lost a 31-7 blowout, only scoring a touchdown deep into the fourth quarter after Stanford had begun testing out backup players. Oregon edged the Cardinal later in the season in a 38-36 slugfest that featured the Ducks averaging 17 yards per pass attempt and sending five different players into the end zone.

Now Frost will be in charge of rebuilding a formerly overachieving UCF program that in the span of less than two years went from 12-1 and shocking Baylor in a BCS bowl, to a 0-12 implosion in 2015.

“I can't wait to bring an exciting style of play to UCF,” Frost said in his introductory press conference. “I know the kids, the players that I talked to today seemed really excited about that. We're going to play hard. We're going to play fast, and we're going to do it the right way and we're going to have a lot of fun. I can't wait to get started, and the look in their eyes, I know they can't wait to get started.”

Less than a week after images of lonely fans watching USF’s 44-3 demolition of the Knights in a nearly empty stadium populated the Internet, the Knights are leaning on the promise of their new coach. On their website, just below #UCFFrostReaction, are two links to buy season tickets. For dejected Knights fans, one of whom was lauded by UCF for giving away his tickets to a Thanksgiving night blowout at the hands of a hated rival, that one new coach is being cast as a miracle worker.

In 2015, UCF was looking for some of those old miracles that made the 2013 and 2014 seasons the stuff of highlight shows. But after early sparks in most of their 2015 games, they invariably fizzled.

The Knights led nine of the 12 games they played this year, and they lost every one of them. Thursday night’s demolition by USF ended a haunting season that grew grimmer as time wore on.

The Knights finished the season with a long list of milestone low points. They had the FBS’s worst total offense, at 268.4 yards per game. They had the fourth worst third-down conversion percentage, at .292. They were sixth worst in first downs. They had the second worst turnover margin, giving up 20 more turnovers than they created.

Conversely, Frost had never commanded an offense that didn’t rank in the nation’s top 10. He also helped develop NFL star quarterback Marcus Mariota, en route to two NCAA national championship appearances.

There’s still no word from the Knights on what they’ll do with offensive coordinator Brent Key, who was promoted to his position this season and led the team to one of the worst offensive performances in team history.

There’s also no word on how UCF plans to fix its quarterbacking corps, featuring a recently injury-prone starter and a backup duo who, in limited playing time, threw almost half of UCF’s interceptions en route to the second-worst team interception total in the FBS. Interim UCF head coach Danny Barrett, who was quarterbacks coach before the sudden departure of O’Leary, is set to return to his job of leading one of the nation’s weakest passing teams.

For the Knights, all the positive talk is about the future. Frost has already hit the ground in full stride, racing to playoff football games to see potential recruits and try to get some high-powered signees before they can leave the state (or to UF, FSU or Miami). Mainland RB powerhouse Adrian Killins, who averaged more than 1,000 yards per season the last two years, is UCF's first commitment. Frost is looking for more offense to help propel the Knights forward and give whoever their 2016 quarterback is more targets downfield.

But UCF does have a bright spot from 2015 that could lead them into 2016 with a breakout performance: the American Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year, Tre’Quan Smith, who found his way into ESPN’s SportsCenter top-10 plays multiple times this season. He caught 52 passes for 724 yards. His highlight diving catches while being hit hard or under pressure made him a candidate for a string of awards, despite playing for a team that’s in its darkest season.


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