As the UCF Knights enter a new era in the Big 12, perhaps no person is more fitting to run the Knights’ offense than Darin Hinshaw. He has seen UCF’s growth and journey to get to the Big 12, and represents UCF’s Past, Present, and Future.
Hinshaw played quarterback from 1991-1994, going 28-16 record as a starter. In 1993, he led UCF to the Division I-AA (now FCS) Playoffs with a 9-3 season.
Hinshaw currently ranks third in completions (614), third in passing yards (9,000), fourth in total offense (8,865 yards), and is tied for second in passing touchdowns (82).
A strong case can be made for Hinshaw to be on the UCF Football’s Mount Rushmore for quarterbacks along with Daunte Culpepper, Blake Bortles, and McKenzie Milton.
Hinshaw did all of this under the tutelage of then-offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek, who was also Hinshaw’s quarterback coach under Gene McDowell.
“Mike Kruczek was like my father. As far as you know, he’s my mentor,” Hinshaw said about Kruczek to Black and Gold Banneret at UCF Football Media Day. “He was the guy that trained me on how to read coverages and what to look for and all the different things as far as offense goes.”
Hinshaw began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCF under Kruczek in 1999, advancing to QB coach the following year in 2000. That year, Hinshaw helped develop a freshman quarterback named Ryan Schneider who would become a four-year starter.
“I still do the same footwork drills that I did with my quarterbacks because it made me better it made me who I was,” Hinshaw said. “I’ve learned a lot throughout the years on how to coach quarterbacks and drills and all the things and all the different aspects of being an offensive coordinator and what to do and how to go attack defenses. And I’ve been around a lot of great coaches. I’ve been blessed. But yeah, Mike Kruzcek is somebody that will forever I’ll have him always in me forever”.
Now Hinshaw has returned to his alma mater to be the offensive coordinator and QB coach as the Knights enter their first season in the Big 12 Conference.
Hinshaw has held the offensive coordinator job at four previous stops: Middle Tennessee (2003-05), Georgia Southern (2006), Kentucky (2016-20), and UAB (2022). He also served as passing game coordinator at Tennessee (2010-2012) and Cincinnati (2013-2015).
Even while coaching elsewhere, Hinshaw had UCF on his mind.
“I’ve been in the SEC for eight years so I’ve been at a high level. But I’ve always bled black and gold.” Hinshaw said. “So you’re always were like, ‘okay UCF, keep on going, keep on coming,’ all through my last 25 years of coaching college football. And to see it continue to grow and then to see us go win big major bowls and do those things, and to be able to get into a power five conference was a huge deal.”
Hinshaw returned to UCF in 2021 as an analyst under Gus Malzahn before going to UAB. In January, Malzahn called Hinshaw to return to call the plays as his offense coordinator and QB Coach.
Malzahn talked about bringing in Hinshaw at UCF Football media day (starting at the 12:23 mark of the video below):
“I’m excited every single day I go to work, but it’s also very personal to me,” Hinshaw said. “I’ve been trying to get back here for many years also in this process and for different reasons in the coaching profession.”
“This is the right fit.”
As Hinshaw takes over the UCF offense, he will have a hand in shaping the school’s future in the Big 12. His first starting quarterback is John Rhys Plumlee, who, just like Hinshaw 30 years ago, was a two-sport athlete.
Plumlee was the team’s leading rusher in 2022 (862 yards), setting new program records for rushing by a QB and even getting into the Top 10 in certain non-QB rushing categories while also throwing for 2,586 yards with 14 TD passes.
This spring, Plumlee started 58 games at centerfield for UCF Baseball, hitting 10 home runs with a .286 batting average, a .384 on-base percentage, with 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases — all while only missing one spring football practice.
Hinshaw’s focus right now is to not only get JRP ready for the season but also prepare the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster — including Timmy McClain, Xavier Williams, and Dylan Rizk — to step in at any time. Those three could also be part of a quarterback battle in 2024, but that is not something Hinshaw is thinking about just yet.
While Hinshaw works toward making UCF's offense the best it can be in the present, it’s easy for UCF fans to wonder this about the future: If the offense has huge success in the Big 12, could Hinshaw one day be the heir apparent to Gus Malzahn as the Knights' next head coach?
That’s not on Hinshaw’s mind at all.
“All I do is worry about today,” he said. “I’m not worried about the first game. I’m worried about today.”