There will be just one UCF quarterback taking snaps at South Carolina — barring an injury, which seems to be an appropriate disclaimer these days.
The question is, which quarterback will get the full confidence of coaches moving forward? True freshman Bo Schneider started the past two games against Stanford and Furman, but he was replaced by redshirt freshman Tyler Harris in the second half of both those contests. Collectively, each has played the equivalent of one full game, during which both have shown some promise and inexperience as they work to fill the gap left by the Knights’ injured starter Justin Holman.
“No, I’m going to go back to one and there’s a chance that Holman may be ready. He gets the stitches out Tuesday, so we’ll see where he’s at,” UCF coach George O’Leary said after the Knights suffered a historic 16-15 loss to FCS Furman Saturday. The Knights have started the season 0-3 for the first time since 2004.
The return of Holman is, perhaps, wishful thinking. He fractured his right index finger Sept. 12 and was projected to return in two to four weeks.
Schneider and Harris are expected to endure some growing pains this season and the youth of the running backs, inconsistent play of the offensive line and lack of experienced, healthy receivers certainly makes the job more challenging. Sophomore receiver Jordan Akins was injured on the opening kickoff against Furman and his status is questionable for the South Carolina game.
Both quarterbacks contributed to three of the team’s four turnovers during the loss to Furman.
Schneider completed 7 of 11 passes for 63 yards, one interception and had the longest reception of the night — a 21-yard pass to sophomore Jordan Franks — that helped set up the team’s lone touchdown, a 6-yard run by receiver Nick Patti.
But when Schneider struggled to move the chains in the final three minutes before halftime and respond to a Furman touchdown, coaches benched him in favor of Harris. Harris didn’t fare much better, completing 7 of 17 passes for 35 yards and two interceptions.
“There was nothing tough out there as far as quarterback,” O’Leary said. “They gotta make plays and then throw the ball where they’re not. . . . There wasn’t anything different than what they practiced against out there. What’s disappointing is turnovers.”
The road doesn’t get any easier as the Knights face their final nonconference game this weekend against an SEC opponent. The fact that South Carolina (1-2) is dealing with some struggles of its own thanks to poor performance and injuries makes the Gamecocks an even more dangerous opponent.
And with an offense that ranks last place among 127 FBS schools recognized by the NCAA, UCF players and coaches know there is a sense of urgency to make corrections before American Athletic Conference play starts in less than 14 days. The Knights will face two of the league’s best teams, Temple and Cincinnati, on the road next month.