Big 12 News

UCF Confident New Quarterback Will Lead to Big Boost

LAS VEGAS — Finding a successor to UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee took nothing more than a dip into the transfer portal and SEC country.

The Knights picked up one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the transfer portal when they signed former Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson.

Jefferson’s career numbers are solid — 7,911 yards passing with 67 touchdowns, along with 1,876 yards rushing with 21 scores. He has the dual-threat ability that coach Gus Malzahn loves to utilize in his offense.


But Jefferson wasn’t as effective a year ago for Arkansas as he was in 2022. But Malzahn relied on his knowledge of the SEC — where he was formerly the head coach at Auburn — and knowing Jefferson’s history in making the decision to pursue him in the transfer portal.

“He’s a dual-threat guy,” Malzahn said. “Throws a great deep ball. Two years (ago), he was one of the better offensive players in the SEC. Last year, they changed the offense, lost some playmakers around him, but we’re really excited to have him.”

He’ll be surrounded by players that are returning starters for UCF from last season and that should smooth Jefferson’s transition to leading the offense.


UCF enters its second season in the Big 12, along with BYU, Cincinnati and Houston. All four joined as part of the league’s expansion last season. Oklahoma and Texas departed for the SEC on July 1.

UCF went 6-7 in 2023 with a 3-6 record in the Big 12. Malzahn continues to build the Knights into a team that could, one day, be a primary contender in the Big 12, helped in part by his experience as a head coach in the SEC.

The Knights have six returning starters on offense, led by running back RJ Harvey, who rushed for 1,416 yards a season ago. Three returning starters on the offensive line will open up holes for Harvey and offer protection for Jefferson.

The defense has less continuity from a year ago, and the starting lineup could be made up of a majority of transfers. Of the holdovers, defensive end Malachi Lawrence isn’t technically a returning starter but could take a big jump after an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention season a year ago.


The Knights open the season hosting New Hampshire on Aug. 29 and Sam Houston on Sept. 7. UCF opens Big 12 action at TCU on Sept. 14 and, after an off-week, host Colorado on Sept. 28.

UCF travels to Florida for its final non-conference game on Oct. 5. Then Big 12 play continues at home against Cincinnati on Oct. 12, at Iowa State on Oct. 19 and hosting BYU on Oct. 26.

The Knights start November at home against Arizona on Nov. 2. The next two games are on the road — at Arizona State on Nov. 9 and at West Virginia on Nov. 23. The regular season wraps at home against Utah on Nov. 29.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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