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Blouin: Look out for Malzahn and Co. in 2024

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Gus Malzahn is a college football legend. In Malzahn’s first season as head coach for the Auburn Tigers back in 2013, he led them to a BCS Championship appearance. Malzahn has seen nothing but success since then, leading each of his teams to a bowl game before he was fired in 2020.

To begin his tenure as head man for the UCF Knights, Malzahn led UCF to a 9-4 record after a six-win season the previous year. With UCF joining the Big-12 prior to last season, Malzahn is hoping to have the Knights competing for a CFP berth soon, and his domination in the portal this offseason has them on the right track.

First on a loaded list of transfers headed to UCF this fall, star quarterback, Arkansas transfer KJ Jefferson. For three years as QB1 for the Razorbacks, Jefferson carried the offense on his back both through the air and on the ground. Jefferson, who plays with a style like Malzahn’s first Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, had his best seasons as a passer in 2021 and 2022.

Not only did Jefferson throw for over 2,500 yards in each of those two seasons, but he also ran for an average of 650 yards. In those two years Jefferson accounted for a whopping 60 total touchdowns. Malzahn worked with a dual threat QB in John Rhys Plumlee at UCF for the last two years which should allow for a smooth quarterback transition.

Next, Malzahn attacked the portal in search of impact defensive players. Malzahn hit the jackpot with a safety duo from Big-12 rival Cincinnati that may have been the best in the conference last season. Deshawn Pace and Bryon Threats have been holding it down in the Bearcats secondary each of the last two years.

Starting with Pace who is the number three career points scorer in this year’s portal class. Immense experience combined with brilliant play give him the chance to be great for the Knights in 2024. Pace has tallied over 60 tackles in each of the past three seasons, with his best coming in 2021 helping lead Cincy to a CFP appearance. Pace uncorked for 95 tackles and four interceptions that season, including nine tackles in the CFP matchup vs No.1 Alabama.

2023-24 College Football Transfer Portal Database

Finally, Bryon Threats, a Columbus native who was a key contributor for Cincy in his two seasons as a starter. Threats added 115 tackles, eight passes defended, and four interceptions to compliment Pace. This duo leading the Knights secondary next season is a dream come true for Malzahn.

With this loaded transfer group, I expect Malzahn and co. to be battling for the Big-12 championship in 2024. With the departures of usual powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma for the SEC, look out for the Knights to make some noise next season.

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