Five burning questions that need answers

UCF soccer opens the 2022 season at dwelling in opposition to South Carolina State a month from Monday.

Before then, nonetheless, Gus Malzahn’s program will hit the observe fields for fall camp.

The Knights reported to the soccer amenities Sunday and can start drills this week. There’s quite a lot of work to be finished earlier than UCF runs out of the locker room for the season opener.

Here are 5 burning questions that need answers earlier than Week One of the season:

For the primary time since 2019, UCF soccer has an precise quarterback battle on its arms.

Malzahn will choose a beginning quarterback between sophomore Mikey Keene and Ole Miss switch John Rhys Plumlee. The determination is predicted to be made after the primary two camp scrimmages, however that timeline may change.

The UCF coach stated final week the race to win the beginning job is “as even because it will get” getting into camp following a summer time that noticed each quarterbacks work out typically.

“We have two guys that I do know for certain we are able to win with,” Malzahn stated throughout AAC media day. “That’s a real blessing, however which one’s going to be the starter?”

Like the UCF fan base, Malzahn is intrigued to search out out which quarterback will lead the Knights on offense.

UCF’s linebacker room has fully modified because the spring due to an inflow of transfers and some departures.

But one factor nonetheless holds true: senior Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste is the one returning linebacker with beginning expertise.

He’ll be joined by transfers Branden Jennings, Jason Johnson, Terrence Lewis and Walter Yates in addition to freshmen TJ Bullard and Kam Moore.

Jennings, who will probably be eligible after transferring from Kansas State and Maryland, is essentially the most gifted on paper. He was a 4-star linebacker out of Sandalwood in Jacksonville throughout the 2021 recruiting cycle.

Lewis, who additionally as soon as performed for Maryland, was a 5-star prospect out of highschool in ’21 however was restricted within the spring with a knee damage suffered at his old fashioned. His well being is one thing to observe.

“We acquired quite a lot of transfers they usually’re very gifted,” Malzahn stated. “It’s simply going to be a matter of placing the items of the puzzle [together] linebacker-wise.”

Malzahn stated within the spring that freshman and early enrollee kicker Colton Boomer was placing strain on senior Daniel Obarski.

How that competitors carries over into fall camp stays to be seen however it’s clear there is a job to be gained.

Obarski completed 8-of-14 on subject targets final season, together with 1-of-6 from past 40 yards.

He did, nonetheless, go 3-for-4 — connecting from 34, 21 and 33 yards — within the Gasparilla Bowl vs. the Florida Gators in a 29-17 victory in December.

While the quarterback competitors will entice essentially the most curiosity throughout camp, who handles the sphere objective duties this season can be one thing to trace.

Between the quite a few transfers and incoming freshmen from certainly one of UCF’s finest signing lessons final cycle, there’s sure to be a newcomer or two who stand out from the remainder.

One might be freshman extensive receiver Xavier Townsend, a 4-star prospect from Berkeley Prep that was dedicated to Iowa State earlier than flipping to the Knights.

UCF senior wideout Ryan O’Keefe spoke extremely of Townsend throughout AAC media day.

“I can see myself in him,” he stated. “He’s very explosive and a extremely exhausting employee. I’m glad to see that from a younger man. I’m excited to see what he does this yr.”

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Along with Townsend, will probably be fascinating to see if any freshman cracks the two-deep depth chart after camp.

A yr in the past, Malzahn and his employees have been nonetheless within the technique of attending to know their gamers and setting the inspiration for the long run.

Entering the second fall camp with the previous Auburn coach, the returning gamers are extra comfy across the employees, and vice versa.

From a group perspective, O’Keefe stated UCF is extra assured. The Knights are conscious of the expectations for this season and embrace them.

“Last yr we went by quite a lot of adversity however we caught collectively,” O’Keefe stated. “Going by the spring with these guys, we’re a lot nearer as a group.

“We actually have the identical objective. We’re headed in the identical path.”

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or comply with him on Twitter at @therealBeede.

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