Ten UCF players, including two projected defensive starters and backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., have opted out of the 2020 season. Knights coach Josh Heupel revealed the players on Tuesday just hours after the AAC released a media poll showing UCF as the favorite to win the league title.
Losing Mack opens the door for redshirt senior McKenzie Milton to become UCF's backup quarterback as he continues rehabilitating a gruesome leg injury he suffered late in the 2018 season. Milton was the team's starting quarterback in 2017 when the Knights went 13-0 and claimed a national championship. He led UCF to a 10-0 start in 2018 before suffering the injury against South Florida. Heupel said Tuesday that Milton won't be ready for the team's opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 19, but added the veteran quarterback is on his way back to playing "at an elite level." Redshirt sophomore Quadry Jones is expected to begin the season as the backup quarterback.
Sophomore Dillon Gabriel is now the team's unquestioned starter at quarterback entering the 2020 season, but Mack was in line to provide depth at the position after he appeared in 17 games over the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
On the defensive side, senior cornerback Tay Gowan and junior defensive tackle Kalia Davis are the two projected starters opting out. Gowan tallied 31 tackles and intercepted two passes last season, while Davis recorded 27 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Losing Gowan and Davis will test the Knights' depth but it shouldn't be devastating. UCF's defense will still be led by senior defensive backs Richie Grant and and Aaron Robinson, as well as senior defensive tackle Kenny Turnier.