The UCF Knights take on the bright lights of Vegas

by | Jul 8, 2024 | 0 comments

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5 things I want to hear at Big 12 Media day

I had everything ready for a serious grill session on the 4th. Sausages from our local Italian butcher, homemade burgers molded from a TikTok recipe blend I’ve been saving for a long summer weekend and chicken thighs marinated overnight in a blend of spices that would make any abuelita proud. The cool condensation on the Michelob Ultra which served as the hair of the dog from a raucous night before, lets you know “a day” is about to be had. Everything was set for a slow cook and sip.

I was ready. 

The grill, however, was not. 

No propane. 

I think we all know that feeling. Just completely stalled and out of synch when you had full gusto and moxie to get things underway. While a minor setback, it gave me a moment to reflect on a short drive over to the gas station as it reminded me of autumn Saturdays before noon loading up the car, gathering the cooler, packing all your food, and that raw excitement for “a day” to be had. 

We’re getting close my friends and nothing echoes that sentiment more than Big 12 Football Media Days arriving. Who would have thought the makeup of this conference two years ago and of all the places having media days set in Las Vegas? It’s a rather fitting backdrop when you think about it. An oasis and marvel of a destination in the middle of the desert that should not exist, molded by unnatural forces bigger than itself, built on dark money and vice. That is the Big 12 in a nutshell. This seemingly random aggregate of schools who have all trauma bonded through conference realignment into something unique, intriguing, and most of all FUN.

We have all the ingredients, every bit of 27 portal players brought in during the offseason, everything in place on the roster sheet ready to fire things up. But I want to make sure Malzahn Year 4 and Co. are coming correct with the propane and GAS we need to take advantage of this year and COOK. 

That fuel is our mindset. 

Our resolve. 

Our moxie. 

Malzahn will be our longest tenured coach here since the O’Leary era. His two previous predecessors left at the finale of Years 2 & 3 respectively. He’s lost more games already than those two COMBINED. Those men left with conference championship hardware too. I know, I know. G5 ball is different than this power level. Gus is recruiting out of his mind. Injuries, the Plumlee Experiment versions 1 & 2, and just the way the ball bounces in any given year. It happens. But this year he needs to produce. We’ve debated ad nauseam win and loss totals or the tempering of expectations. Some people have different thresholds of success. Being a college football fan is an expensive hobby and everyone’s insight is valid. This is what I want to see at Big 12 Media Day from our guys and especially Gus on press row, to know we are serious about this 2024 campaign.

KJ Jefferson Movin’ On Up

It’s no secret that this entire outfit is predicated on productive QB play that plays smart and stays healthy. You only go as far as your QB takes you. Gus has his guy. I cringe every time he adamantly professes someone to be the second coming of Cameron Jerrell Newton but in this instance, I will give him a pass. The Boy got busy in the best division of college football. His numbers dipped a bit last year behind a porous offensive line and new offensive coordinator but his numbers in Fayetteville are eye-popping. In his three years in the hog pen, he threw for 7,431 yards and 64 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,751 yards and 17 touchdowns. He only threw the ball to the other team 17 times in his entire SEC career. 

How does he carry himself at Big 12 Media Days? Yes, there are other exceptional talents in this league in a Cam Rising (Utah), Avery Johnson (Kansas State), and Shedeur Sanders (Colorado) just to name a few. Only HE has been selected as Newcomer of the Year. But what will KJ’s personality reveal? What will he wear? What is his demeanor and how does HE set expectations for his final year at this level? What type of edge is he bringing? WOW me KJ. I’m excited for you. But I still don’t feel like I know you. 

Gus Not Letting the Room Overtake Him

This conference has killers as far as the coaching ranks go. Kyle Wittingham has been stuffing the wine and cheese crowd on the West Coast into lockers for the better part of a decade with 3-star talent that believes. Lance Leipold stuffed us with the run in Lawrence with an abusive tandem of backs a yard shy of 400 on the ground alone last year. His Sunflower State counterpart Chris Klieman just landed their first five-star recruit in tight end Linkon Cure to come to Manhattan. They’re a little bolder in Boulder now too. Can Gus recruit and pitch his message as to why us, and why now? There is a reason why this entire league sniffs around our state for talent. As the flagship Big 12 member of Florida, what is your swagger and stance going to be Gus? We suffered a five-game losing streak and had “Country Roads” bellow in the underbelly of our stadium on Homecoming night. Baylor. Magnum Opus against Oklahoma State. How do you answer for that inconsistency and what have you remedied? 

DO NOT let Coach Prime own more of that podium touting Florida than you being the only Florida-based coach with actual success at this level. Colorado has to come HERE. We are 39-6 AT HOME the last five years. Let me see you a little pissed off. A chip on your shoulder that always seems to benefit our program when looked at as less. Sometimes it’s good to taste your own blood a little bit. What are you going to do now for Year 2 with everything YOU want in place? Show me Orlando versus EVERYBODY. 

RJ Harvey to Put the Conference on Notice

Has there been a more snubbed RB1 in UCF history than RJ Harvey? The second team back is Preseason All-Big 12 behind Ollie Gordon and Tahj Brooks. This is a serious league for running backs. Apt recent brand sponsorship for RJ with NO BULL. Last year he rushed for 1,416 yards and 16 touchdowns. This year we add exceptional MAC Player of the Year Peny Boone, another 1400-yard rusher. This will be an exciting Thunder & Lightning punch, but I want RJ to give the presence that HE is the premiere back on this team. 

He will be a three-year back and the closest thing to a bonafide hometown hero. Does he have a calm to him, or pissed off? I want the latter and I want him to let the Big 12 media at large know it too. Like Kendrick Lamar says, “Sometimes you just gotta pop out and show [naysayers].”

Kobe Hudson to Start Talking WR1 Crazy

Kobe had a banner year in 2023 catching for 900 yards and eight touchdowns as the Robin to Javon Baker’s Batman. The Dark Knight has moved on to Foxborough and this is now Hudson’s receiving corp. He has grown the last couple of years, well entrenched in the Gus Malzahn dog house early in his transfer to East Orlando from the Plains. He has since earned respect and been a dynamic piece of our offense. Can he find magic with Ja’Varrius Johnson, another Tiger transfer, and mentor Jacoby Jones coming from the MAC to the Big 12? He must be excited about KJ Jefferson’s ability. I would love to hear him talk about their chemistry and the difference in talent from past QBs. 

Deshawn Pace Lean Into Playing The Villain Role 

I love intraconference transfers. I especially love them when they’re coming from a place like Cincinnati, and we have a trio of them. From all accounts, Pace is lighting it up in preseason workouts and he is projected to be a solid mid-round pick if it translates this year. How does he answer why he left the Queen City after being a part of the only G5 team to ever make a College Football playoff? What does he enjoy about playing with Bryon Threats, a fellow Bearcat defector? What does he feel he can contribute this year and who does he model his game after?

We need some soul on defense, and that for me always starts with your linebacker core. We’ve been missing that identity for what seems like forever. I feel like Pace can deliver that for us this year and I’m excited to see how he answers when/if asked about the rivalry with Cincinnati. 

The lights will be bright in Sin City. Everyone in this conference is jockeying to be the best of the rest, outside the behemoth shadows of the B1G and SEC. I love where our feet are at now, but these next seven years are an audition on the most lucrative stage we’ve ever been on. 

It’s time to fire it up. 

We have all the ingredients. 

Let’s make sure we have the propane ready to go too. 

Follow the @SonsofUCF on all our socials this week for media day coverage and reaction.

About Dali
Proud UCF Alum ⚔️ | Big12Conference Fan | Avid Content Creator & Marketer | Curator of Good Times | Believer in “the sweet is not as sweet without the sour.” Twitter: @Dali_Drama

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