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John Rhys Plumlee Named UCF’s Starting QB

Transfer will start UCF’s opener against South Carolina State

UCF Spring Game
John Rhys Plumlee
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

John Rhys Plumlee has been named the UCF Knights’ starting quarterback for their opener on September 1st against South Carolina State. The announcement came via Twitter on Sunday afternoon:

Plumlee enters his first season at UCF after transferring from Ole Miss. He beat out Mike Keene, who started ten games for UCF last season and led the Knights to a victory over Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl.

Originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Plumlee was recruited by Gus Malzahn to play at Auburn, but instead went to Ole Miss after a recruiting dalliance with Georgia. He played 9 games at QB for the Rebels in 2019 splitting duties with Matt Corral. He threw for just 910 yards on 53% passing with 4 TDs and 3 interceptions but ran for 1,023 yards on 154 carries with 12 TDs.

After Lane Kiffin took over in Oxford, Plumlee was relegated to wide receiver for two years while also playing baseball. He decided to come to UCF for the Spring of 2021 with two years of eligibility remaining.

In the spring game, Plumlee unofficially went 11/15 for 189 yards and four touchdown passes.

He entered the summer facing fierce competition with Keene, who won seven of ten games after taking over for the injured Dillon Gabriel. It now looks as though Plumlee has come out on top.

How JRP Might Look

We have limited data on what gave Plumlee the upper hand over Keene. However, there are a few things we can infer:

Gus’ Playbook. Gus Malzahn’s history as a head coach will show you he favors athletic quarterbacks who can run, throw, and make plays. At times last season, Malzahn’s scheme was limited based on Keene’s inexperience and skill set (Keene, after all, was a Josh Heupel recruit). Plumlee was the fastest QB in the SEC at Ole Miss, and now the 22-year-old will get his shot in Orlando.

Take a peek at this breakdown from Joe Broback on what we might see from him:

The Extra Dimension. UCF’s offense is still in a state of transition from Heupel’s AIr Raid attack to a more ground-based scheme under Malzahn. Plumlee brings that to bear with his ability to avoid defenders and extend plays. He also can cover up for any shortcomings on the offensive line with his running ability.

Of course, his passing ability has been the subject of debate, but in a previous episode of the Black & Gold Banneret Podcast, we spoke with Plumlee’s private QB coach, Baylin Trujillo, about his skills. Trujillo also worked with McKenzie Milton in the run-up to the NFL Draft:

What About Mikey Keene?

As for QB2, we have no word on what Mike Keene will do as of Sunday night. It stands to reason he can stay on as a backup, but will enter the QB room in 2023 with Plumlee, Tommy Castellanos, and new transfer Timmy McClain from South Florida, as well as likely incoming freshman Dylan Rizk.

Given what happened last year, Plumlee maintaining the job throughout the year is an open question. If 2021, taught us anything, it’s that injuries occur. So even though this decision may have been a blow to Keene, it may not be the last we hear from him in 2022.

UCF’s first game is Thursday, September 1 against South Carolina State. Monday marks ten days until kickoff.