COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCF Knights Heads Into Upcoming 2021 Season with All-New Look

By  //  September 1, 2021

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The football scene at UCF certainly looks different for 2021. (UCF Knights image)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – The football scene at UCF certainly looks different for 2021.

There’s new Knight head coach Gus Malzahn, who most recently led Auburn to bowl games in each of his eight seasons there (six of them of the New Year’s Day variety), to go with a Southeastern Conference crown, a pair of SEC division titles, an appearance in the Bowl Championship Series title game and a half-dozen New Year’s Six/BCS bowl games.

Malzahn ended up in Orlando in part because of the new UCF vice president and athletics director Terry Mohajir (he joined the Knights Feb. 9 and hired Malzahn six days later).

Those two worked together at Arkansas State for one football season in 2012 when Mohajir was in his first year there as athletics director and Malzahn was in his first year as a college head coach. They collaborated to win the Sun Belt Conference title that year.

Visiting Boise State had similar changes in the offseason, hiring a new athletics director (Jeramiah Dickey) and head coach (Andy Avalos) within a week’s time in January.

Here are items to consider as the Knights open the 2021 campaign:
■ Just a coincidence, Part I? Gus Malzahn’s Auburn teams won 68 games in his eight years as the Tigers’ head coach—the exact number of wins by UCF in that timeframe (2013-20).

■ Just a coincidence, Part II? When Gus Malzahn left Arkansas State following his one season as head coach, he was replaced by Bryan Harsin (the co-offensive quarterback at Texas the prior two years).

When Malzahn left Auburn after the 2020 season, he was again replaced by Harsin.

So Harsin, who spent seven seasons as head coach at Boise State (2014-20), might have been headed to Orlando this week if not for all that transition.

■ Lots of connections. It’s hardly unusual, but plenty of the new UCF assistant coaches hired by Gus Malzahn have previous connections to the new Knights’ head coach.

Here are a few:–Defensive coordinator Travis Williams, a former standout Auburn linebacker, served as co-defensive coordinator for Malzahn the last two years at Auburn—and coached Tiger linebackers the previous three years (2016-18).

■ So what will the UCF offense look like in 2021? Knight fans should get some hints Thursday night. Here’s a numbers comparison of how the UCF and Auburn attacks played out the last few seasons:
–Over the last three years (2018-20 season), 55.8% of UCF plays came on the ground, while 56.5% of the Knights’ total offense came via the air.

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