Mizzou OC Josh Heupel leaves to become UCF head coach

ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF didn’t take long to hire someone to lead its rejuvenated football program.

The university announced Tuesday that Josh Heupel will be the Knights’ next football coach. The move comes about 72 hours after Scott Frost announced Saturday he was leaving UCF to become the coach at Nebraska.

“Coach Frost did an outstanding job,” Heupel said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “My job is to continue to develop those relationships and continuity. I look forward to that. We need to play smart football, but we also have to be physical.”

Heupel, who has been the offensive coordinator at Missouri the past two seasons, inherits a Knights program that just finished 12-0 to win the American Athletic Conference title. The Knights will play Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Jan. 1.

He will not coach the Knights in the bowl game, but will watch from a booth at Mercedes-Benz stadium. UCF is working on logistics that would allow Frost to coach that game.

Heupel said he was able to catch “bits and pieces” of UCF’s play this season.

“There are special players coming back when you look at the roster. For the most part, the nucleus on both sides of the ball are coming back,” Heupel said. “There is a great quarterback coming back who made plays with both his arms and legs. Always great to have that piece coming back.”

Heupel said in a statement before the news conference that he is excited to get a staff together and get to work. He didn’t take long to start assembling his assistants.

Shortly after Heupel was named coach, he announced that he was bringing in Randy Shannon as his defensive coordinator. The former Miami coach finished the season as Florida’s interim coach.

“When I was first contacted, I pored over some guys who I wanted,” Heupel said. “Me being an offensive guy, getting the right hire on defense was critical. I have competed and coached against Randy. He plays a 3-4 scheme and believes in multiple coverages. Has a rich history in Florida and recruiting, and that’s the lifeblood of our program.”

Athletic director Danny White believes UCF has “identified one of the brightest minds in college football” in Heupel.

“You could see his knowledge,” White said. “He is one of brightest offensive minds in the game. It puts us in a great position moving ahead. I’m confident we can continue the momentum.”

Heupel, indeed, arrives with an impressive resume, having helped Sam Bradford win a Heisman Trophy as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and getting Missouri’s offense on track over the past two seasons.

Heupel said he runs a no-huddle and fast-paced style of offense.

“That’s the style they want and that’s what’s important to me,” he said. “That’s why I want an aggressive style on defense as well.”

Missouri’s Drew Lock led the Southeastern Conference in passing this season, throwing for 3,695 yards and 43 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. He was named to the All-SEC first team. The Tigers improved from four wins in 2016 to 7-5 and will face Texas in the Texas Bowl later this month.

Frost led a stunning turnaround at UCF, which finished 0-12 just two years ago.

Like Frost, Heupel is a former college quarterback who won a national championship as a player. With Heupel leading the way, Oklahoma won in 2000.

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