On August 29, 1996, the then UCF Golden Knights made their first appearance as members of Division I-A, the NCAA’s uppermost subdivision for football.
Twenty four seasons have come and gone. While UCF is no longer golden, the Knights have grown and solidified their place in what is now known as FBS. The year 2020 was supposed to be a magical year for UCF football. Expectations both inside and outside of the program were incredibly high. The football team was looking for their fourth consecutive ten plus win season and a top 25 preseason ranking. While the season hasn’t quite worked out as planned, 2020 is the silver anniversary of UCF’s elevation to FBS. In honor of UCF’s 25th season as members of FBS, here is UCF’s all-FBS team.
Criteria: The player had to have played at least one season in FBS to qualify. That means Mike Gruttadauria and Marquette Smith just missed the cut and Shawn Jefferson doesn't qualify.
Daunte Culpepper (1995-98): To many younger fans, this is a controversial pick. To older fans who saw him play, there is good reason he gets top billing.
Why Daunte Culpepper and not McKenzie Milton? Simply put, Culpepper did more with less. His freshman year was UCF’s final year in FCS(then I-AA) before the team made the jump. A five-star recruit and a physical specimen, UCF was very supportive of Daunte while he worked to academically qualify and he rewarded that loyalty with his commitment when he did qualify, turning down bigger programs. In his junior season, the second FBS season for UCF, he willed the Knights to a halftime lead against eventual national champion Nebraska before the team talent gap caught up.
Daunte shocked everyone by declaring that he was coming back for his senior year despite heavy NFL interest. Culpepper’s senior season in 1998 was the best in UCF’s young history. He passed for a 170.2 passer rating and a ridiculous 73.6% completion rate. He brought UCF within one minute of reaching a bowl game.
Culpepper is currently the school leader in passing yards at 11,412 and passing touchdowns with 84. He’s also sixth in rushing touchdowns with 24. His 12,432 total yards of offense is the school record. He also has a school record 108 total touchdowns. He was named to UCF’s official 25th anniversary team back in 2003.
Kevin Smith (2005-07): This started out as Kevin Smith and blank because Smith was so far above everyone else.
Kevin Smith came in as an unheralded freshman and took the team by storm. He helped engineer one of the largest single season turnarounds in NCAA history as the Knights went from winless in 2004 to 8-5 with a Conference USA East Division title and the school’s first bowl appearance. His freshman campaign was the fifth-best single season rushing campaign in UCF history with 1,178 yards.
While his sophomore campaign wasn’t as strong, he made up for it with a historic junior season in 2007. Smith’s 450 carries broke a NCAA record formerly owned by NFL Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen and his 2,567 yards on the ground fell less than 100 yards shy of breaking Barry Sanders’ single season rushing record. His single season yardage mark is most than 1,000 yards ahead of the next best season. Smith’s 29 rushing touchdowns in 2007 is almost double the second-highest season (15 by the next player listed). He also owns the number one and two single game highest totals in school history and currently owns five of the top ten as of publication.
After only three seasons, Smith declared for the draft, but finished with a school record 4,679 yards and 45 touchdowns rushing. Smith became UCF’s first unanimous All-American after 2007 campaign. Smith came back to UCF as a coach from 2015-17.
Latavius Murray (2008-12): Forever known as the man who scored the winning touchdown to secure UCF’s first bowl victory, Murray’s selection as the second running back was not a shoo-in. While Murray was the most talented of the remaining bunch, he was stuck as in a running back by committee with Brynn Harvey and Ronnie Weaver, and despite looking better than his peers in his sophomore and junior years, he was always in coach George O’Leary’s doghouse was never the feature back until his redshirt senior year of 2012.
Murray was dominant in 2012, rushing for a team-high 1106 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding another four receiving touchdowns. Murray currently ranks seventh in rushing yards with 2,424, but it’s expected that Greg McCrae will pass him this year. Murray is also third in school history with 37 touchdowns. It’s also possible that McCrae could potentially supplant Murray.
Brandon Marshall (2002-05): Much like Kevin Smith with the running backs, Brandon Marshall blew away the competition to get the top wide receiver spot. Don’t let his stats fool you. Marshall had a privilege of being on the worst team in UCF’s FBS era in 2004 and arguably the worst in school history. Because the depth of the defense was so bad, Marshall had to be moved from offense to defense for the majority of the season. How did Brandon do? He lead the team in tackles with 51 along with an interception and half a sack. He made up for it with a complete dominating display during his final game at the 2005 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Tre’Quan Smith (2015-17): By far the hardest pick to make was who was second in the wide receiver category. It was so close between Tre’Quan Smith and Mike Sims-Walker, they’re both being included.
As a freshman, Tre’Quan Smith was one of the few bright spots in the winless 2015 campaign, solidifying himself as a deep play threat. Before going pro after his junior season in 2017, Smith led the team with over 1,100 yards receiving and thirteen touchdowns. He left UCF tied for fifth in receptions with 168, third in total yards with 2,748, and fourth in touchdowns with 22.
Mike Sims-Walker (2003-06): Mike Sims-Walker was a reception machine. He owns the school record for receptions in a season with 90, which he accomplished in his senior campaign of 2006. Overall, Sims-Walker is fourth in career receptions and fourth in receiving yards. Like Brandon Marshall, Sims-Walker essentially lost a year in 2004 when he too had to move to the defense due to depth issues and ended up leading the team in interceptions. Seriously, if anyone tries to make an argument that the 2015 team was worse than the 2004 team, remind them that not one, but two wide receivers who played in the NFL had to jump over to the defense because the cupboard was that barren.
Jordan Akins (2014-17): Jordan Akins is an interesting story even without excelling on the football field. Originally a part of the 2010 recruiting class, Akins opted to play baseball in the Texas Rangers organization. After four seasons, he retired from baseball in 2013 and returned to UCF to play football. His freshman year in 2014 was spent completely at wide receiver. After a torn ACL derailed his sophomore year in 2015, he redshirted and came back as a tight end in 2016 under new coach Scott Frost. As a tight end, Akins felt right at home, being faster than the prototypical tight end. As a 25-year-old junior in 2017, he had his best season before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Darcy Johnson (2002-05): Darcy Johnson gets the slight nod over Michael Gaines due to Johnson being more of an effective offensive weapon while Gaines was more of a blocking tight end. That’s not to say blocking isn’t important. It’s very important, but as a tight end, there needs to be some balance and Johnson was more of a balanced player.
Josh Sitton (2004-07): An unheralded recruit, Josh Sitton grew into one of the best offensive linemen in UCF history. After starting four games as a freshman in the dismal 2004 season at right guard, he moved to right tackle in 2005 and stayed there the rest of his collegiate career where he helped running back Kevin Smith break records and win the school’s first conference championship.
Cornell Green (1995-98): As a four year starter, Cornell Green helped protect Daunte Culpepper during the infancy of UCF’s time in FBS. It can be argued that a portion of Culpepper’s success can be attributed to Green’s work on the line. Green was named to UCF’s official 25th anniversary team.
Jah Reed (2006-10): At 6-7, Jah Reid stood tall among everyone else. As a raw redshirt freshman, Reid started four midseason games at right tackle before becoming a mainstay for the next three years.
Steve Edwards (2000-01): Steve Edwards was a mammoth of an offensive lineman at 6 foot 4 and 355 pounds by the time he was done at UCF and at the NFL Combine. While Edwards only played two seasons with the Knights, he was that good. Edwards was also named to UCF’s official 25th anniversary team.
Justin McCray (2010-13): Along with his twin brother Jordan, Justin McCray was a mainstay on the offensive line. Justin’s versatility proved invaluable as he started multiple games at right tackle and right guard. Aside from Jordan, for his first two seasons, he got to play with his older brother Cliff, also an offensive lineman.
Bruce Miller (2007-10): An undersized defensive end, Bruce Miller had a motor than would never quit. Miller’s had a great sense for where the ball was and where it would be going. By the time he finished at UCF, he left as the school’s all time sack leader with 35.5 and also had a whopping 57.5 tackles for loss. He even had three interceptions. Two of them were during his senior year and they were both returned for touchdowns. His 13 sack junior season in 2009 is a UCF FBS era record. He was instrumental in UCF defeating Georgia in the 2010 Autozone Liberty Bowl for their first bowl win. One of the best to ever suit up for UCF on the defense ended up as a fullback in the NFL. Life is funny like that.
Elton Patterson (1999-2002): Elton Patterson was a leader on the line while at UCF. Patterson finished his career at UCF fourth all-time with 30.5 sacks and was the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss in his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He also had 133 total tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss. They even used him as a highlighted player on the 2002 team poster. I still own the poster above.
Torrell Troup (2006-09): While the stats won’t show it, Torrell Troup caused mayhem for offensive lines throughout his career. Troup saw plenty of action during his UCF career, including three starts as a freshman before becoming a regular started at nose tackle. Overall, he had 39 starts with 24 tackles for loss.
Paul Carringon (2002-05): This was a close one between Carrington and Keith Shologan. Carrington helped anchor the defensive line, playing in 46 games for the Golden Knights. He had a good eye for the ball, forcing four fumbles and recovering five. He also blocked a pair of kicks, had eight pass breakups and an interception. He finished his career with 30.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.
Shaquem Griffin (2013-17): Shaquem Griffin benefited more than any other player with the coaching change from George O’Leary to Scott Frost in 2016. Griffin made the change from seldom used safety to a force of destruction at linebacker. Griffin became the soul of the defense, full of passion and a motor that never stopped. He ended up with 195 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, and 18.5 sacks. Griffin was one of the few players who were on the roster for UCF’s Fiesta Bowl winning 2013 season and the undefeated 2017 season. His stellar play in the 2018 Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl won him Defensive MVP honors.
Terrance Plummer (2011-14): As the primary middle linebacker for three seasons, Terrance Plummer was a leader on the defensive side of the ball. A great tackler, his 14 tackles helped lead UCF to win the 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and garner Defensive MVP honors. After playing a whopping 51 games for UCF, Plummer ranks eighth in total tackles 332 and also had 30.5 tackles for loss.
Tito Rodriguez (1998-01): Tito Rodriguez was one of the most dependable tacklers during the early years of UCF in FBS. As of publishing, he’s tenth in school history with 321 total tackles, including a school FBS record of 143 set in his senior year. He’s also tied for the single game record with 23 tackles. During his junior year, he had the second highest tackles per game average in the country
Asante Samuel (2000-02): Asante Samuel made himself known at UCF as a shutdown pass defender and capable returner. He finished with 127 tackles and eight interceptions in three seasons with the Knights. Samuel currently owns the school record for passes defended with 38. Samuel returned 63 punts over the three years and as a freshman, also added ten kickoff returns. Samuel ended up having an even better NFL career.
Joe Burnett (2005-08): Joe Burnett had an outstanding defensive career at UCF. Aside from Burnett currently is the school leader in interceptions, he had a great run as a punt returner. In four years as a starter at UCF, Burnett amassed over 220 tackles. As a punt returner, Burnett leads UCF with 96 punt returns, 1,304 return yards, and is tied with three touchdowns. Burnett was part of a very talented freshman class that helped snap UCF’s long 17 game losing streak, win the Conference USA East Division title, and take UCF to their first bowl game. That group was also instrumental in UCF winning their first conference title two years later. Burnett’s punt return for a touchdown in the 2007 Conference USA Championship Game in front of UCF’s home crowd was one of the highlights of UCF’s history at the Bounce House. As a senior, Burnett was a first team All-American.
Travis Fisher (1999-2001): Fisher transferred to UCF from the junior college ranks as a sophomore and ended up starting his junior and senior seasons. Fisher’s strength was defending passes, getting credit for 35 defended passes in his three years along with four interceptions. Fisher’s senior season was his best as he had 61 tackles, 13 passes defended and two interceptions. Fisher’s strong finished helped him get drafted in the second round in the NFL Draft. After his career ended, Fisher had two stints as a coach at UCF. He was a defensive quality assistant in 2013 and 2014 and a defensive backs coach from 2015-2017.
Clayton Geathers (2010-14): Clayton Geathers was a tackling machine. Not including his true freshman year, where he only played one game while keeping his redshirt, Geathers had at least 40 solo tackles. Overall, he had 383 tackles with 19 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He’s currently third all time at UCF in total tackles.
Matthew Wright (2015-18): Matthew Wright might not have the NFL career Matt Prater has had or benefited from being on the high scoring 2017 and 2018 teams, but Wright earned the kicker spot by being incredibly accurate. Wright made 210 out of 213 extra points for a 98.6% accuracy. He was reliable for field goals as well, hitting 55 of 71 kicks for a 77.5% accuracy. Overall, Wright has a school record 375 points.
Caleb Houston (2012-16): Caleb Houston had the benefit of being active all four years of eligibility. He didn’t have as many punts or yards as Blake Clingan, but he was more efficient. He had 234 punts and averaged about 42 yards a punt, including a 44.2 yard average in the winless 2015 campaign.
Quincy McDuffie (2009-12): No one could return kicks like Quincy McDuffie. The 5 foot 10 inch wide receiver was quite the speedster. McDuffie has a number of UCF school records in his name as a kick returner. He has a school record 90 kick returns, 2,501 return yards and blows away the competition with six kickoff return touchdowns. The next closes was Joe Burnett with two. As a senior, he was Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year as he averaged 34.2 yards per return and had three kickoff returns for touchdowns on only 17 kickoff return attempts.
Well, there you have it. Twenty five years of FBS football at UCF and these are the best of the best. Do you agree? Disagree? There’s plenty of room for discussion. Let the debate begin below!