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Four Things We Learned from Darin Hinshaw’s Press Conference

Gus Malzahn is making a big change in how he does things

Gus Malzahn
Photo: Derek Warden

The UCF Knights have their new offensive coordinator in Darin Hinshaw, who was officially announced on Wednesday.

Questions still abound concerning what UCF’s offense will look like with Hinshaw at the controls, but his introductory press conference gave us some hints as to what to look for in 2023.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Hinshaw has wanted to come back home for a long time

There is no doubt about Hinshaw’s level of investment in UCF. He said this was his “dream job.”

He discussed his history with UCF at length, including his relationship with former UCF head coach Mike Kruczek, who was the offensive coordinator here when Hinshaw threw for 9,000 yards over four seasons as UCF’s starter.

Coaches often want to come back to their alma mater, as we know well. But some are shy about it for a good reason: They don’t want to be seen as pressuring those who make their career decisions — coordinators, head coaches, ADs — into hiring them. It’s not fair to the current staff (the coaching fraternity is pretty tight), nor is it good for their own financial prospects (the more you want a job, the less that place might pay you).

But in this case, Hinshaw took his shot at the right time. He has bounced around college football for the better part of 20 years since he was the QB coach under Kruczek in 2000, and paved a way for himself as an analyst in 2021, although interestingly, it was for the defensive staff.

Bottom line: It was the right opening at the right time.

2. Gus is giving up playcalling

Coach Malzahn hinted at his post-season press conference that he might delegate playcalling to a new offensive coordinator upon the departure of Chip Lindsey. But he went into more detail about that decision on Wednesday:

“Probably about halfway through this year, it hit me that, to be a head coach at this day and time, and be a play caller, it wouldn’t work. And I started feeling that way about halfway through the season, and finished everything. And so when the season was over, I wanted to open it up and find the best person for us.”

Malzahn was clear about what led him to this decision, which we could tell was difficult. He’s been calling plays since he was a high school coach in Arkansas, after all.

“In this day and time, I don’t know how head coaches can be play callers. There’s probably a few still out there that can pull it off but there’s more challenges than ever before. I’m really excited about the next step in my coaching career, spending time with our players, overseeing our program.

“We have our hands full with NIL right now, the one-time portal, and the roster management — everything has been accelerated.”

What is interesting is that Malzahn said this is the first time he has stepped outside his coaching tree for an offensive hire, although Hinshaw has worked on staff as an analyst at UCF in 2021.

“It’s about adapting, and that’s what we’re doing,” Malzahn said.

3. Vertical passing will be an emphasis

Both Hinshaw and Malzahn emphasized that they wanted to throw vertically more with Hinshaw at the controls:

Taking them at their word, UCF could use a bit of a jolt through the air.

Last season, the Knights were 57th in FBS in passing offense at 241.2 yards per game. That was an improvement over 2021 (206.2, 91st), but bear in mind UCF was playing with true freshman backup Mikey Keene at the helm for most of the year and had to find ways to win — specifically via the ground game.

In the prior four seasons, from 2017-2020, UCF finished outside the top ten in the nation in passing offense only once, in 2018 (36th).

Good offense requires balance. While most in 2023 interpret that as “Don’t forget about the running game,” UCF’s M.O. under Hinshaw will ostensibly be to balance their 9th-ranked running game (228.3 yards per game) with a more dynamic air attack.

4. The QB competition is open for 2023

One thing that HInshaw made clear is that the competition for UCF’s starting QB job is officially open for 2023:

“It’s a clean slate. Everybody has the opportunity to be the starting quarterback.”

I’ve done that every year, and the reason is you want is competition in the room. You don’t set the depth chart before anybody does anything. I learned that as a player. When I played here, every year they brought in a guy to take my job, and transfers coming in, and it made me better.

The biggest thing you want in that room is competition. It makes the room better.”

Right now, UCF has John Rhys Plumlee returning for one more season, soon-to-be sophomore Tommy Castellanos, USF transfer Timmy McClain, and incoming freshman Dylan Rizk, along with Will Bohn and Brock Hansel.

Of Note: Malzahn also announced that Tim Harris, Jr., the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, has been promoted to assistant head coach.

Even though Hinshaw will call the plays, Harris is and will still be instrumental in administering and running the system.