When senior safety Tre Neal announced on July 20 that he would be transferring from UCF to Nebraska, it caught many Knights fans off guard.
The UCF Football team, on the other hand, had known for more than a month that this announcement was coming. Although the element of surprise was long gone by the time some of Neal’s now-former teammates arrived for AAC Media Days last week in Newport, Conn., their respect for him was still quite present.
“We knew about it in the summertime because he wasn't working out with us, but we wish him the best of luck because he's a brother and always will be,” senior linebacker Pat Jasinski said of Neal. “He can always reach out to any of us. We love Tre, and he's done a lot for this school and the program.”
Senior linebacker Titus Davis added: “We're going to miss him. We're going to miss that leadership and a little bit of that experience.”
NEW PODCAST!@Jeff_Sharon and @EricLopezELO catch up with @Spokes_Murphy, who was up in Rhode Island with #UCF for @American_FB #AACMediaDays. They talk about Mike Aresco, the state of the league, and @UCF_Football's early 2018 outlook.https://t.co/WCZvhRth83— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) July 25, 2018
However, the Knights do have experienced starters in tow to fill the void left by Neal. When asked who will be looked upon to step up, head coach Josh Heupel went straight to Richie Grant, who played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season, racking up 32 tackles.
Then there is Kyle Gibson. The redshirt senior was a 2017 All-AAC First Team selection and is on a couple of preseason watch lists for national awards. With about a month before the season kicks off, it seems as if Gibson is already making a difference with his leadership skills.
"When you talk about senior leaders, he's one of those guys that doesn’t have to say much, but those young guys watch him and they follow his lead,” Davis said of Gibson. “They see what he does. They see that after our workouts, he goes out and trains on his own. You've got young guys following him out there to the end where they are out there working hard. By him doing those types of things, it just puts guys in position to make great plays.”