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Weekend Recap

CFB News of the Week: 2/19/21

by Derrik Klassen
Updated On: February 20, 2021, 12:23 pm ET

Gus Malzahn hired by UCF

In a world where most HCs who got fired could only find new jobs as assistants (if they could find jobs at all), Gus Malzahn has landed right on his feet at one of the best G5 programs in the country. Malzahn was brought in to replace Josh Heupel, who darted from Orlando to take the Tennessee HC job. With UCF having a bit of a down year relative to their recent success, Malzahn has a bit of a rebuild project on his hands. 

Malzahn’s offense should look noticeably different from Heupel’s. Heupel, akin to the Baylor offenses of the early 2010s, loves to play from four-open formations and attack vertically. Heuepel’s offense also almost entirely avoids the middle of the field, instead targeting the sideline at various depths and filling in the rest of the offense with underneath YAC-oriented routes. 

That’s not Malzahn. Sure, Malzahn still wants to manipulate space, but his approach is much more about picking spots and beating down the backbone of a defense. Malzahn’s run game is filled with power, counter, inverted veer, etc. — anything to get a puller or two moving around to create chaos. Heupel, not so much. As for the passing game, there are still plenty of vertical routes, but Malzahn is much more willing to hunt for chunk gains over the middle with crossers and put more of a horizontal stress on defenses. The personnel should look different, too, at least by Year 2 when Malzahn has more of “his” roster than Heupel’s roster. 

Herb Hand backs out of Charlotte deal, moves to UCF

And in related news, OL coach Herb Hand is reuniting with Malzahn at UCF. The pair was together for some time at Auburn, before Hand took a job with Texas between 2018 and 2020. UFC was not Hand’s first destination this offseason, though. 

Hand initially signed a deal with Charlotte at the beginning of the month. Though Charlotte sounds like a step down from Texas, and it certainly is, the Chanticleers are one of the premier G5 programs to be at right now and Hand would have gone a long way in taking them to the next step. 

Instead, Hand will play a part in reshaping the UCF offense. Whereas the past two HCs — Scott Frost and Josh Heupel — were big believers in going four-wide and getting vertical as much as possible, Malzahn’s offense will be more of a power-spread scheme. The UCF run game should feature far more pulling concepts and gap schemes, which is what Hand was brought in to really hammer home. 

Hand is comfortably one of the best OL coaches in the nation and is respected in circles as such. Prior to signing with the Tigers in 2016, Hand had served under HC James Franklin at both Vanderbilt and Penn State.

Michigan QB Joe Milton hops in the transfer portal

Perhaps the long-awaited Joe Milton breakout season is still in the cards. If it is, it just won’t happen at Michigan. Milton, a former four-star recruit back in the 2018 signing class, will be transferring out of Ann Arbor. 

A 6-foot-5, 234-pound QB with Milton’s arm talent and star rating had Michigan fans excited for years. After his first start against Minnesota in 2020, it looked like he may deliver on that talent. Milton completed 15-of-22 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, while also adding on eight carries for 52 yards and a score. Alas, Milton’s play over the next handful of games deteriorated, ultimately getting him removed from the starting lineup. 

That Minnesota game showed there is something there, though. Milton will be transferring as a graduate, so he can play right away for whichever team needs some immediate help or competition at QB. For reference, other top schools such as Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami (FL), and others all had strong offers out on Milton, so it’s possible he turns to some of those old suitors first. 

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Recruiting dead period extended to May 31

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult for schools and the NCAA to sort out how recruiting should be handled. In-person visits are an unnecessary risk, even for as inconvenient a truth as that may be. The NCAA seems to continue to be in line with that thinking and have pushed back the current recruiting dead period to May 31st. 

For the small handful of schools that need no recruiting pitch, this probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and maybe a couple of others will be able to chug along just fine. 

Where things get tricky, though, is for some of the second and third tier schools that really do need in-person visits and meetings with coaches to sell recruits on their school. Those schools have not been able to host recruits for almost a year now, and it will be just over a year by the time this dead period extension ends. 

There is no telling if this will be the last of the dead period extensions. As mentioned, when this extension finishes up, the dead period will have been going on for over a year, so at that point it would not be too shocking if the NCAA just decides to uphold the dead period indefinitely or extend it again. Time will tell. 

Zach Wilson touted as QB1?

There’s always someone. There’s always got to be one person who goes against the obvious just because. And, for now, it’s some anonymous NFL scout who spoke with NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller, claiming some teams have BYU QB Zach Wilson rated above Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.

The one scout mentioned, “What he does as a thrower, and as a runner, is exactly where we are as a league right now,” in reference to Wilson’s talent and playstyle. The scout compared Wilson’s freelancing and arm talent to Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. While on a very, very surface level, that sort of checks out, it takes an immeasurable degree of mental gymnastics to actually put the two near the same level. 

For one, Wilson is not built like Mahomes and does not have that kind of arm talent. Wilson’s arm is good, do not get me wrong, but Mahomes has a legit S+-tier arm, whereas Wilson’s is more of a standard A-tier arm. The BYU signal-caller also does not possess the same vision and creativity Mahomes does. Granted, nobody else besides Mahomes really does, but Wilson’s out of the pocket play is more about getting himself out of jams than anything, not necessarily making hero throw after hero throw the way Mahomes does. 

Wilson is still a good QB prospect. He will and should be drafted in the top-10, and there is merit to saying his style of play is suited for today’s league. Still, he is not Mahomes, nor is he the same caliber of prospect as Lawrence.