Ex-Notre Dame QB excited to make debut with No. 17 UCF

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Brandon Wimbush is excited to have another chance to play.

The former Notre Dame quarterback believes he’s a good fit for UCF’s prolific offense, and the senior transfer will make his debut with the 17th-ranked Knights against Florida A&M on Thursday night.

Wimbush beat out true freshman Dillon Gabriel for the job that opened because of injuries to McKenzie Milton and the two-time American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year’s backup, Darriel Mack Jr.

The 22-year-old Wimbush, 13-2 as a starter at Notre Dame before being benched last season with the Fighting Irish sporting a 3-0 record, certainly is not a stranger to a big-time college football atmosphere.

Still, he noted it’ll be different trotting onto the field with a new team.

“I’m going to be nervous. I hope everyone’s nervous,” Wimbush said, adding he views that as a sign of being excited and ready to play, rather than a negative.

“This being my fifth year … it’s not pressure for me anymore,” he added. “I understand this is a privilege, and I’m just excited and happy to be able to do it again.”

Gabriel, who went to the same high school in Hawaii as Milton, will also play in the opener after impressing coach Josh Heupel during training camp.

“We said it was going to be an open competition,” said Heupel, who’s beginning his second season at UCF.

“Dillon has earned the right to go out there and play,” the coach added. “As a young player that exposure will be really beneficial to him.”

LOFTY EXPECTATIONS

With Milton leading the way, UCF went 25-1 over the past two years and won consecutive AAC titles. The dual-threat quarterback suffered a serious knee and leg injury last November and will miss the season.

Mack, meanwhile, started last year’s AAC championship game, as well as the Fiesta Bowl. He’s been sidelined this summer while recovering from a broken ankle.

The Knights don’t expect to miss a beat with Wimbush taking over.

PLENTY OF HELP

UCF has had one of the most balanced offenses in the country the past two years. Wimbush’s transition figures to be helped by a strong running attack featuring Greg McCrae, Otis Anderson and Adrian Killins. McCrae rushed for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

WE’RE BACK

Ryan Stanley returns at quarterback for Florida A&M after throwing for 2,519 yards, 17 TDs and 12 interceptions in 2018. RBs Deshawn Smith and Bishop Bonnett are back, too, after combining to rush for 1,173 yards and seven TDs. Smith and Bonnett averaged 6.7 and 7.2 yards per carry, respectively.

LAST TIME

FAMU went 6-5 last season, the program’s first under coach Willie Simmons.

The Rattlers won their only previous meeting with the Knights 19-14 at home in 1987, when FAMU was a thriving NCAA Division I-AA program and UCF was competing on the Division II level.