On Aug. 30, the UCF football team will run onto the field for the first game of the season alongside new head coach Josh Heupel. Since his hiring as the 11th head coach in UCF football history was announced on Dec. 5, 2017, the college football universe has been waiting to see where he will take the team next.
Getting to Know You
When Heupel and his staff arrived on campus, the first order of business wasn’t to jump right in to discussions about the changes. While learning new schemes and acclimating to the new terminology has been crucial to the team’s training, Heupel felt it was most important to develop relationships with the players first.
Throughout the summer, coaches and players could be found together at cookouts and theme park excursions. The opportunities to come together as a family helped to form bonds that will carry over onto the field.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy being around them and getting to know them as individuals so that when adversity strikes, inevitably, we’re in a good position to go fight it together,” Heupel says.
The Next Chapter
Coming in as the new coach of a team whose previous season was one for the record books, Heupel is quick to note that it wasn’t an anomaly. The Knights have had five 10-win seasons in the past 10 years, three conference championships in the past five years and two New Year’s six bowl wins in the past five years, including last season’s Peach Bowl victory.
“This is a powerful program that’s only getting better because our staff and players are pushing for it to get better every single day,” he says.
Heupel and his staff made their transition as seamless as possible by sharing in the learning experience. As the players learned new terminology and schemes, the coaches familiarized themselves with verbiage that carried over from the previous coaching staff as well as some schemes that fit the new personnel’s style, with some subtleties included. Heupel’s up-tempo offensive style is also familiar.
As the Knights head into this new chapter, Heupel says they’re comfortable with his staff’s systems and that they’re excited to get out there and compete.
“We’re going to play fast and aggressive on offense,” Heupel says. “I want to pair that with a fast, aggressive defense on the other side of the ball. I want to create negative plays and create turnovers. I’ve gone against Randy [Shannon] a couple times when he was at Miami, at TCU and at Florida and understand offensively his ability to cause problems and his ability to create negative plays.”
Overcoming the Hype
As a national-championship winning quarterback for Oklahoma who was runner-up for the Heisman trophy in 2000, Heupel understands the hype surrounding UCF as they head into this new season. However, he has taught his players that they need to ignore the outside noise from social media comments or friends on campus and focus on the fact that they’re only as good as their next performance in 2018.
“So as good as last season was, as good as the Peach Bowl was, we’re only as good as what we show when we walk out on the field against UConn,” he says.
As they have worked through each phase of preparation for the season ahead, including strength and conditioning, spring ball and summer training camp, Heupel is proud of his players for putting them in a position to be successful. The next phase is to go 1 and 0 every week by focusing on what they can control, one game at a time.
As the UCF football program continues to charge on in their quest to be the best, the fan base continues to bring their passion and energy to the stands.
“That’s the most exciting thing about this job for me,” Heupel says. “You’re not chasing the past, you’re creating the future and you’re doing it every single day.”
Here’s when the UCF Knights take the field this season and what you should wear to support Orlando’s hometown team.
Aug. 30 at UConn
Sept. 8 vs. S. Carolina
Wear anthracite (gray)!
Sept. 15 at North Carolina
Sept. 21 vs. FAU
Sept. 29 vs. Pitt
Oct. 6 vs. SMU
Student section wear black and non-student sections wear gold!
Oct. 13 at Memphis
Oct. 20 at East Carolina
Nov. 1 vs. Temple
Wear black or white!
Nov. 10 vs. Navy
Fans’ choice – wear any UCF Knights gear!
Nov. 17 vs. Cincinnati
Fan vote on social media for game-day attire!
Nov. 23 at USF