While fans are ready for the start of the 2019 college football season, it appears, unfortunately, that UCF QB Darriel Mack Jr. won’t be.
UCF Football’s Twitter account released this statement from head coach Josh Heupel on Wednesday morning:
So, Mack has a broken ankle and will not participate at all in fall camp. Rough.
However, there are many questions left to be answered here just regarding Mack’s status.
Did he suffer a clean break for a displaced fracture?
Where on the bone did the break occur?
Was there any other surrounding damage?
All of these need to be addressed before we can get a gauge on just how long Mack will be sidelined. The Knights’ season opener versus Florida A&M comes seven weeks from Thursday. Common ankle breaks usually take ~6 weeks to heal, although a running QB such as Mack may have to deal with residual effects for a significantly longer period of time.
I guess now is a good time to point out that AAC Media Days is right around the corner, so we’ll get to hear from Heupel on Tuesday in Rhode Island.
Regarding the impact for UCF on the field ... thank the lord for graduate transfers.
Brandon Wimbush was seen as a bit of a luxury when he decided last winter to spend his final season in Orlando after a few years with Notre Dame. At the very least, he would push Mack in a full-blown quarterback competition.
Now you have to at least assume that Wimbush is the odds-on favorite to start that Aug. 29 game versus the Rattlers. His game mirrors Mack’s in a number of ways: They are both dual-threat athletes with big frames, superb running ability and evident flaws as a passer.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wimbush completed barely half of his 382 throws while with the Irish, but he racked up 804 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground when he was a full-time starter in 2017.
Mack, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, went 51 for 100 passing last year. But you know he can be a gamechanger with the ball in his hands, much like he was in the second half of the 2018 conference title game against Memphis.
How quickly Wimbush acclimates to the Knights’ offense is the biggest unknown surrounding him right now, but considering that he should be able to run many of the same plays that were already drawn up for Mack, the learning curve shouldn’t be steep.
Let’s also not rule out the two other names on UCF’s QB depth chart: Freshman Dillon Gabriel and redshirt freshman Quadry Jones.
We haven’t really seen Gabriel, obviously, but he garnered plenty of buzz during spring ball and there seems to be confidence that if absolutely necessary, he could handle meaningful snaps this season.
Jones took a redshirt in 2018, and I view him currently as the third man in what is now a three-man competition. But he did make the most of his one play on the field during the season (fast-forward to the 0:27 mark):
Wednesday news is a tough setback for Mack, but it shouldn’t wipe out his season, assuming all he has suffered is a clean break. In the meantime, UCF is left with a more experienced clone of Mack who is plenty familiar with playing in big games. And behind him is a freshman who, in time, might very well be the best overall player of the bunch.
So, if want to look on the bright side, look at it like this: Although UCF is now down their top two quarterbacks in Milton and Mack, the cupboard is far from empty. And considering what’s left and the supporting cast around them, the offense can still be formidable. How many other programs can truly boast that while sending out their third starting quarterback in the span of about nine months?
Meanwhile, Mack seems determined not to let this injury derail him long-term:
Battle Tested ....— Darriel Mack Jr ™ (@DJMactastic1) July 10, 2019