Aberdeen’s Josh Heupel is new FB coach at UCF
Aberdeen's Josh Heupel is new FB coach at UCF
Josh Heupel called becoming UCF’s new head football coach a life-long dream fulfilled.
And the first-time head coach understands the high expectations he faces replacing Scott Frost, who led the Knights to the first 12-0 season in school history.
“There’s pressure, absolutely,” said Heupel, 39. “But there’s no greater pressure than that than I would have already put on myself.
“I’ve played on big stages, in big games. I’ve coached in them, too. And at the end of the day, when you walk across those white lines, it’s all the same. I’m going to be consistent and true to who I am and how I interact with players. I’m going to build this program from where it’s at and take it to higher heights.
“But I think it’s special to be able to take over a program that’s 12-0 and has a chance to go play in a great New Year’s Day Bowl game.”
Heupel, a former offensive coordinator for Missouri, was introduced as the 11th head coach in UCF history Tuesday afternoon shortly after he met with football players during a private team meeting. Former Florida assistant coach Randy Shannon was also introduced as the program’s new defensive coordinator.
The Heupel hire concluded a speedy search that lasted about 48 hours after news broke during UCF’s American Athletic Conference Championship Game that Frost stepped down to accept the head coaching job at Nebraska.
UCF athletics director Danny White said the two most important factors he looked for during his coaching search were coaches of high character who were committed to continuing to run the fast-paced, high-scoring brand of football Frost developed.
“Josh killed the interview,” White told reporters.
Heupel was unclear if he would retain Frost’s remaining two assistant coaches on staff, Troy Walters and Sean Beckton. But Heupel was clear that he doesn’t want to rebuild an already sturdy foundation that produced the nation’s only undefeated Football Bowl Subdivision team.
He plans to run a similar fast-paced, no huddle run, pass option offense that highlights the various playmakers on the roster, including Otis Anderson Jr., Adrian Killins, Gabe Davis and, of course, McKenzie Milton.
Even Shannon, who has run a base 4-3 defense for most of his lengthy coaching career, said he would continue the team’s current base 3-4 defese with the various formations and looks employed by former defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.
“You let those guys build on that,” Shannon said referring to players’ relationships with the previous staff. “But you build on what UCF is about and it’s about a family.”
The Xs and Os are the easy parts to figure out for Heupel and his to-be-announced staff. The greater challenge is earning the trust from a group of players still dealing with the surprising departure of the previous coaching staff.
Frost and his assistants are expected to return to Orlando to help players bowl game prep for the Peach Bowl Jan. 1. Heupel plans to travel to Atlanta to watch the game with White in the club suite.
“Any time there’s a transition, there’s always uncertainty. The players are looking for what is this next coach going to be about,” Heupel said. “So I was able to go through the traits and characteristics we’re going to try and instill in them. I talked to them about the environment we’re going to try and create when they walk through the door every single day.
But ultimately I told them this, ‘Those are words [and] actions speak louder than words.’ But I promised them as we move forward, they’re going to understand what I’m saying is going to be truthful and hopefully I gain their trust as we move through this process.”
Heupel said he plans to meet with players individually in the coming weeks as he works to put UCF’s recruiting class back on track ahead of the new early football signing period Dec. 20-22. The new coach will also be working to assemble a staff. Frost took nearly all of his support staff with him Nebraska.
“Trust is something that doesn’t just happen overnight,” Heupel said. “… If we can trust each other then we have a chance to go after another championship.”
Heupel, like Frost, has experience winning championships.
Frost won his national championship at Nebraska, while Heupel was a consensus All-American quarterback who led Oklahoma to the 2000 national title.
Both are the sons of football coaches.
Heupel attended Weber State and suffered a torn ACL before clawing his way to Oklahoma.
He was an Associated Press Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award and Archie Griffin Award winner in 2000 who thrived under the direction of Sooners offensive coordinator Mike Leach.
After brief stints with the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers, he worked as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 2004, tight ends coach at Arizona in 2005 and quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2006-14.
Heupel was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Utah State in 2015 before taking over as Missouri’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2016.
Heupel helped Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock go from a difficult 2016 season to leading the SEC in passing in 2017. Lock was 224-of-385 passing for 3,695 yards, 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
As Lock improved, so did the Tigers. Missouri went 4-8 last season. This year, Mizzou is 7-5 and will face Texas in the Texas Bowl Dec. 27.
UCF officials, Heupel and Missouri leaders have not decided whether he will help coach the Tigers during their bowl.
Story Courtesy Orlando Sentinel