The question everyone awaits is where will former UCF Knights QB McKenzie Milton transfer to for the 2021 season?
We figure to find out in the next few weeks, as the assumption is Milton will want to be at his new place by the start of the spring semester.
In honor of Milton, I take a look at 10 schools that could be in the mix for KZ’s services and have either direct or indirect connections to Milton. I’ll break down the quarterback situation at each of these schools as well as the offensive line play and scheme, which Milton will look for, as he discussed in his interview with Marc Daniels & Mike Bianchi on Friday’s edition of “The Bridge” that airs weekdays on 96.9 FM in Orlando .
Perhaps Milton goes to Oxford and plays for Lane Kiffin’s offense. Milton is very familiar with the Rebels’ scheme as it is similar to the one he ran at UCF. Milton also knows the play caller as Jeff Lebby is the offense coordinator. Lebby was Milton’s QB coach in 2018. Ole Miss also has UCF Athletics Hall of famer Kevin Smith as their running backs coach.
But there are two big issues. One is Ole Miss’ offensive line, especially in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus, the Rebels have the sixth-lowest rate of true pass sets in the FBS at 16%, and they rank 109th in pass-block grade overall in the country. The Rebels’ line ranks 86th overall.
But the biggest issue is Ole Miss has Matt Corral as the starting quarterback. Corral is in his sophomore season and Kiffin said on Wednesday that Corral told him earlier in the week that he is “1,000 percent coming back,” and his reasoning was, “I need another year here.” Plus Kiffin and Lebby got big news on Friday when four star recruit Luke Altmyer committed to the Rebels. Do not look for a Lebby-Milton reunion in Oxford.
Perhaps Milton can play for Mike Leach, who is finishing his first season as Head Coach at Mississippi State after eight seasons at Washington State. If Milton were to play for Leach in 2021, it would be 22 years after Leach coached Josh Heupel at Oklahoma in 1999, when Leach was the offense coordinator under Bob Stoops and Heupel was the starting quarterback.
Leach has developed quarterbacks that played in the NFL, including Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew. That is something that could attract Milton as he chases his dream to play in the NFL.
Currently Leach has freshman Will Rogers as the starting quarterback. Rogers took over for K.J Costello, who struggled after a great debut at LSU in the season opener. Costello transferred from Stanford to Mississippi State. Perhaps Leach looks once again if he’s not sold on Rogers. Plus the Bulldogs have already picked up a UCF transfer in the last week as Randy Charlton announced on Thursday he is going to Starkville. Could Milton follow?
The negative for Milton going to Starkville is that the Bulldogs have one of worst offensive lines in the country, ranking 118th out of 127 teams, according to PFF, which means lots of quarterback hits, as Leach is not shy to throw the ball all over the field at the expense of a running game.
As hard as it may be for Knights fans to see, perhaps Milton would be interested in playing for the Florida Gators and Head Coach Dan Mullen, who is one of the best quarterback coaches in college football, and has developed guys like Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and Alex Smith, who coincidentally just came back from his own horrific leg injury to resume his career in Washington. Mullen currently has Kyle Trask, who is in the mix for the Heisman Trophy and figures to go to the NFL after the season. The Gators’ offensive line ranks 76th according to PFF.
Emory Jones would be the front runner to be the starter in 2021 with freshmen Anthony Richardson, Carlos Del Rio and Jalen Kitna (son of former NFL QB Jon Kitna) expected to be Gators in 2021. Despite the lack of experience, I am told Mullen rarely goes to the transfer portal for a quarterback, as he likes developing and molding quarterbacks and likes the upsides he will have on the roster for his system.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Does KZ want to return to his home state of Hawaii? Hawaii has good offensive line, which is ranked 41st according to Pro Football Focus.
The offensive coordinator is G.J.Kines, a former Quarterback at Tulsa, who played for current Hawaii head coach Todd Graham, who is in his first season. Kines played for Chip Kelly in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The negative of Hawaii is that Graham has no ties to Milton or Hawaii and has a dual-threat sophomore QB in Chevan Cordiero, who is a Hawaii native, and committed to the program back in 2017 and is the current starting quarterback. Cordiero leads the team in rushing and passing and is not likely to go anywhere.
BYU will likely be looking for a quarterback as Zach Wilson’s stock has gone up to the point where he is expected to be an early round NFL draft pick in 2021, if he chooses to declare after the season. For Milton, BYU could be a place where he ends up playing and helps improve his stock for the NFL, like Wilson. Plus he would have one of the best offensive lines in the country as the Cougars are currently ranked the 2nd-best O-Line according to PFF and projects to return four of their five starters.
BYU has two sophomore quarterbacks on the roster in Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall, who could be who BYU decides to pick from instead of going outside the program with a scheme that is a bit different than what Milton ran at UCF. That makes this match unlikely.
The first school people thought of when Milton announced he was transferring is, of course Nebraska, to reunite with Scott Frost, who recruited and coached him at UCF. The Cornhuskers are the obvious favorite with the connections between KZ and the Huskers, and would make for great storylines. It would seem to be a no-brainer move...or is it?
So far, Frost has not turned around the Nebraska program like he did at UCF, and could be facing an impatient fan base as he tries to rebuild the program. The skill talent is not what it was at UCF and the Huskers’ offensive line ranks 94th in PFF. Frost needs more time to build a good roster, which may not be good for Milton.
Frost also has Adrian Martinez, who Frost recruited to Nebraska while also helping UCF prepare for the 2018 Peach Bowl. Martinez has split time this season with redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey, who is the brother of Carolina Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey and son of former NFL wideout Ed McCaffrey, and is believed to be the future of the program. Also, does someone from Hawaii who has lived in Florida the last four years want to play in the cold weather Big Ten in Lincoln?
Perhaps Frost puts in a good word to Milton about one of his mentors in Chip Kelly, whose staff Frost was on at Oregon (2009-2015) as the wide receivers coach (2009-2012). Kelly has a good offensive line - ranked 48th best according to PFF - and Milton would have good weather in Los Angeles and be back on the west coast, just a flight away from home.
Frost’s offense that Milton ran at UCF was taught by Kelly, who is in his 3rd season at UCLA. Like Frost at Nebraska, Kelly has not had a smooth start at UCLA.
Current starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is no sure thing to be the starter in 2021. Other quarterbacks who could be in the mix for the Bruins’ starting job include current backup Chase Griffin, Washington transfer Colson Yankoff, and freshman Parker McQuarrie. Is Kelly sold on what he has on the roster, or does he see Milton as a possible upgrade at the position?
There have been rumors about Florida State having interest in Milton from multiple media outlets. The Seminoles figure to be in the market for a quarterback after a rough 2020 season, where they started three different quarterbacks and have played four total. The Seminoles received bad news last week as four-star recruit Luke Altmyer decommited from FSU to go to Ole Miss. That leaves FSU head coach Mike Norvell with Jordan Travis as the projected starter for 2021, with would-be sophomores Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker in the mix for the job.
FSU didn't aggressively pursue a grad-transfer QB last offseason.— Brendan Sonnone (@BSonnone) December 3, 2020
That strategy -for the short-term and long-term health of the program- must be different this year.
Here's why FSU has to go all-out in adding an established QB in the transfer portal:https://t.co/hBkmlU9eXC
Travis has not been able to stay healthy during his two years with Noles, and while he has shown himself to be a dynamic runner, he has not been a good passer. Purdy, who is the younger brother of Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, has had an injury-plagued 2020, injuring his collarbone in August and getting injured again after making his first start at NC State.
Norvell may go with a quarterback he is familiar with up close from his Memphis days, having faced Milton three times.
For Milton, it is the easiest path to a starting job without even being at 100%. But the issues are plenty, with one of the worst offensive lines in college football since 2016, which currently ranks 107th in PFF. Plus the roster is need of a major rebuild. Milton may want to avoid that situation, especially if he has a better opportunity open up down south.
The blueprint is there for Milton in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes got D’Eriq King in the transfer market from Houston, beating out schools like Florida State, and it has paid huge dividends for the Canes, as Miami is currently ranked in the top ten this season and is poised to be headed to a New Year’s Six Bowl game after going 6-7 last season in head coach Manny Diaz’s first season.
The question now is does King return for 2021 or declare for the NFL Draft? If King decides to move on, Miami could be in the market for a quarterback, as Diaz said on Wednesday that they are looking to add a quarterback for the 2021 roster. Miami currently has backup N’Kosi Perry, who is currently a redshirt junior, redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha, and true freshman Tyler Van Dyke. Miami does not currently have a QB committed to its 2021 recruiting class, although they are reported to be going after four-star recruit Jake Garcia, who decommited from USC last week.
Miami’s offensive line is in the middle of the pack, ranked 77th. This may be the situation Milton is looking for with a good offensive scheme, a chance to start if King leaves, living in a warm weather area, and a chance to win.
A program to watch that may be a sleeper in the Milton sweepstakes is Arkansas. The Razorbacks added Feleipe Franks, who transferred out of Florida and has helped first-year head coach Sam Pittman get the Razorbacks program some respect back after being a bottom-feeder SEC program under previous head coach Chad Morris.
With Franks a senior, Arkansas’ quarterback situation in 2021 is uncertain, since if Franks does not return, the Razorbacks have freshman Malik Hornsby and redshirt freshman K.J. Jefferson, who started Saturday against Missouri for Franks. Arkansas may look for experience at quarterback once again for 2021 to compete in the SEC and maybe go back to the Sunshine State to look for a quarterback.
Milton can reach out to Feleipe’s brother, Jordan Franks, who played at UCF with Milton from 2016-2017, to get the scoop on how things have gone for Feleipe at Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks’ offense coordinator is Kendall Briles, who is the brother in law of Jeff Lebby. Briles runs a similar offense to the one Milton has run and has helped the Razorbacks’ offensive line, which is ranked 59th on PFF.
Arkansas looks like a potential great fit for Milton, who would run a offensive scheme he has experience with, does not have a ton of competition for the starting job, and has an improved offensive line in a scheme that is O-line and quarterback friendly. The Razorbacks and even UCLA may be good situations for Milton, but also would be the best scenario for Knight fans, who will follow Milton next year and not have to worry about him playing for an in-state team they hate like the Canes, Noles and Gators, and do not want to Milton to reunite with Frost.