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UCF Football is Ready to Hit Somebody Else

Takeaways from the Knights' first game-week press conference of 2018

Josh Heupel UCF
UCF Football's Josh Heupel is just five days away from making his regular-season debut as a head coach. (Photo: Derek Warden)

The UCF Football team is very eager for the opportunity that awaits them just five days from now.

That's when the Knights will open their 2018 regular season on the road, versus an AAC opponent, on national TV and as the only ranked team in action.

But more than anything, it's that early date that stands out.

"I know we're all happy just because we've got less time to wait," linebacker Pat Jasinski said about UCF's Thursday debut at UConn. "We're all excited to get out there and play."

Quarterback McKenzie Milton expressed a similar sentiment: "I'm very excited to start the season, excited to see what these 2018 Knights are going to be about."

Here are some of the other noteworthy lines that we heard from the Knights during their first game-week press conference on Saturday.

Butterflies Will Be in Flight

Head coach Josh Heupel faced a handful of questions revolving around his personal emotions as he prepares for his first game as a head coach at any level. He acknowledged that he will be a mixture of nervous, excited and anxious prior to kickoff in Hartford. But to him, those feelings are a good sign.

"You put eight months into something, you should have all those feelings if you care deeply about it," he said.

Heupel won't be alone if he feels a tad queasy during pregame. His starting quarterback will be on the same level.

"You have butterflies right before the game starts, and I think snap one, they go away," Milton said. "I think If you don't have butterflies, I think you don't really have a love for the game. ... I think butterflies are knowing that you're ready to play."

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Depth Chart Chatter

Right tackle was perhaps UCF's biggest question mark on offense entering this season. Wyatt Miller had held that spot down in previous years, but he has flipped to left tackle to replace Aaron Evans. When the team's first official depth chart was released Friday, it showed JuCo transfer Josh McMullen on top at RT. Heupel talked Saturday about why McMullen earned that spot.

"He's been mature in how he handles himself since he got here in January," Heupel said of McMullen. "He's done a great job of adding a lot of weight from where he started when he got here coming out of junior college. He's athletic. He's got a great skill set, and I believe he's going to play at a high level for us."

Injury Report

Two players who aren't listed on that initial two-deep depth chart are offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux and defensive lineman Dedrion Bacote-Sweat. Heupel said that while the team is "pretty healthy" at the moment, those two players are "nicked up" and unlikely to be on the field at UConn.

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Hawaii on the HIsman's Mind

Milton's afternoon in front of the media began with a question about his home state of Hawaii, which has spent the past few days dealing with once-major hurricane, now-Tropical Storm Lane.

"I've definitely been sending my thoughts and prayers back home with Hurricane Lane hitting the islands," said Milton, who grew up in Mililani. "From what I heard, my island, they've been alright, Oahu. But I know the big island (Hawaii) and Maui, they probably got the worst of it, so definitely sending my thoughts and prayers to them."

Milton said he hoped that he as well as the baseball team from Honolulu, which won the Little League World Series U.S. Championship on Saturday, could "lift up their spirits with the way we play on the field."

Potent Quotables

-- Heupel on why it's fun to coach this team: "On the field, they love to play ball. They really do. They are physical, they love to compete and they talk a lot of trash to coaches and players alike." He identified Milton and linebacker Shawn Burgess-Becker as team's biggest trash-talkers.

-- Defensive lineman Titus Davis on being the hunted: "We go into practice every day just thinking about that. That's part of our preparation, just knowing that guys are gunning for us, everybody in this conference and outside of this conference. We did have a great record last year, so everybody's going to be looking forward to beating us. We've got to put our best foot forward."

-- Heupel on his pregame-speech preferences: "I love the big rah-rah speech, but on the opening kickoff, once you get hit in the mouth, the rah-rah speech isn't doing a whole lot for you."

-- Running back Otis Anderson, who is listed as a utility man on the depth chart, on playing running back and wide receiver throughout camp: "It's fun being able to go to two different meeting rooms, learn two different positions and really master my craft at both."

-- Heupel on backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr: "Maybe fundamentally, (Mack) has improved as much as anybody inside of our program. ... Still, there's a lot of growth left for him as a player, but he's clearly the No. 2 guy for us right now."