UCF Names John Rice Plumlee Starting QB: Gus Malzahn Tabs Former Ole Miss Star To Lead Knights Offense

UCF coach Gus Malzahn announced on Sunday Ole Miss transfer John Reese Plumlee will begin the season as the Golden Knights’ starting quarterback after playing wide receiver for the Rebels last season. Plumlee last started a game at quarterback in 2019 as a freshman at Ole Miss, and he transferred to UCF with the intention of returning the position.

To win the job, Plumlee had to beat out sophomore Mickey Cain, who started 10 games for the Knights last season after star Dylan Gabriel was injured in the third game of the season. Gabriel has since transferred to Oklahoma, where he is reuniting with former UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Leiby. Kenny accounted for 1,730 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions on 63.6% passing for Gabriel, but he lacked the mobility that Malzahn typically preferred from his signal-callers during his eight-year run as Auburn’s head coach.

In contrast, Plumlee is known for his athleticism, which he showed in 2019 when he rushed for 1023 yards and 12 touchdowns from the position for the Rebels. Plumlee also played outfield for the Ole Miss baseball team and is also listed on UCF’s baseball roster. .

UCF finished 9-4 in Malzahn’s first year in 2021, capping the season with a Gasparilla Bowl win over Florida. The Knights were picked to finish third in the AAC in the league’s 2022 preseason media poll but received seven of 24 possible first-place votes and finished behind Houston and Cincinnati in the poll.

Below are some takeaways as Plumlee under center potentially helps propel the Knights to the top of the league in 2022.

Easy choice

Cain filled in admirably as a freshman last season after Gabriel’s injury, with former three-star prospect Malzahn unsigned. Cain signed with UCF under former coach Josh Heupel in December 2020, nearly two months before Malzahn was introduced. Plumlee, meanwhile, has ties to Malzahn and UCF offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey since he was recruited as a member of the 2019 class. After Plumlee initially committed to Georgia, Malzahn’s Auburn staff offered him as a receiver.

Although the Tigers reportedly began to change their view of Plumlee as a quarterback later in his recruitment, he wound up at Ole Miss as a quarterback. Malzahn got an up-close look at Plumlee’s abilities in Auburn’s 20-14 win over the Rebels in 2019. Plumlee rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, completing 11 of 21 passes in that 20-14 victory.

Return to the comfort zone

As Kenny is learning now, coaching changes that involve significant changes to the offensive scheme can change how certain players fit on the depth chart. That was the story for Plumlee amid the Ole Miss coaching transition from Matt Luke to Lane Kiffin after the 2019 season.

Although Plumlee showed promise as a dual-threat quarterback in his freshman season under Luke, Kiffin went with Matt Corral as the program’s starting quarterback. Plumlee backed up Corral in the 2020 season until moving to full-time receiver before the program’s 26–20 Outback Bowl win against Indiana that season.

Plumlee caught five passes for 73 yards in that game in which his future could be bright. But he struggled to carve out a consistent role in 2021, finishing the year with 19 receptions for 201 yards. Now, Plumlee, will be back in his comfort zone at his preferred position.

“That’s where my heart is always going to grow,” Plumlee said in the spring. “It’s always been something I’ve loved to do. To be able to do it again and be able to go back to center back, it’s really a blessing and something I love to do.”

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