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UCF football spring transfer tracker: Gus Malzahn reloads for Year 2 in Big 12

The spring transfer portal opened on April 16. Coach Gus Malzahn is tasked with replacing key losses at quarterback, receiver and linebacker depth on a team that finished 6-7 last season:

DB Nikai Martinez

Vitals: 5-11, 175-pounds

Resume: The former three-star product from Apopka High School helped guide the Blue Darters to a 12-2 record and an appearance in the state championship game in 2021. He was rated No. 17 in the Sentinel’s 2022 Central Florida Super60.

Role: Martinez appeared in 27 games over the past two seasons, starting all 13 games in 2023-24. He totaled 75 tackles with 3 tackles for loss, a sack, 6 passes defended and 3 interceptions. Martinez finished last season ranked fifth on the team in tackles (54) and was tied with Demari Henderson for the team-high in interceptions (3).

Outlook: While Martinez’s departure is a blow for the Knights, the team still features starting cornerbacks Brandon Adams and Ja’Cari Henderson, along with safeties Braeden Marshall, Demari Henderson and Quadric Bullard. The addition of transfers Antione Jackson (East Carolina), Deshawn Pace (Cincinnati) and Byron Threats (Cincinnati) and the emergence of freshmen Christian Peterson and Chasen Johnson should help ease the loss.

QB Timmy McClain

Vitals: 6-1, 196-pounds

Resume: McClain, a three-star product from Seminole High School, strongly started his collegiate career when he signed with USF as part of their 2020 recruiting class. He showcased his potential by throwing more than 6,300 yards with 68 touchdowns in four varsity seasons with the Seminoles. In his freshman year with the Bulls, McClain started nine games, passing for an impressive 1,888 yards with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He continued to build on this success after transferring to UCF in 2022.

Role: After his redshirt year, McClain moved into the backup role behind starter John Rhys Plumlee. He took over the starting job after Plumlee suffered a severe knee injury in the final minute of the Knights’ 18-16 win over Boise State on Sept. 9. McClain started the next three games before Plumlee returned against Oklahoma on Oct. 21. He finished the season passing for 1,065 yards with 9 TDs and 3 interceptions while rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Outlook: The arrival of Arkansas transfer KJ Jefferson cemented McClain’s status as the Knights’ backup quarterback. The redshirt sophomore spent time with the second-team offense throughout spring camp. His reported departure opens the door for redshirt freshman Dylan Rizk and true freshman Riley Trujillo to move up to No. 2 and No. 3 on the depth chart.

LB Rian Davis

Vitals: 6-2, 230-pounds

Resume: Davis was a former four-star prospect from Wekiva High School when he signed with Georgia as part of its 2019 recruiting class. He was ranked as the No. 4 OLB nationally, the No. 78 overall prospect and the No. 11 prospect in Florida. After four seasons with the Bulldogs, where he appeared in 23 games and totaled tackles, Davis transferred to UCF in 2023.

Role: Davis appeared in seven games for the Knights, totaling 14 tackles in a primarily backup role and working with the special teams unit.

Outlook: The redshirt senior wasn’t listed on the team’s spring roster, and with the additions of transfers Ethan Barr, Xe’ree Alexander and LaDarius Tennison, his role wasn’t yet to be identified.

QB Gunnar Smith

Vitals: 6-4, 205-pounds

Resume: Smith was a three-star Lake Mary High School quarterback who originally signed with USF as part of its 2022 recruiting class. He spent one season with the Bulls on the scout team before transferring to UCF in 2023.

Role: With John Rhys Plumlee, Timmy McClain and Dylan Rizk’s spots secured on the depth chart, Smith’s role with the Knights was primarily on the scout team with transfer Xavier Williams and walk-on Brock Hansel.

Outlook: With six quarterbacks listed on the depth chart, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make a move. Even with Williams switching positions to defensive back, there were plenty of bodies at quarterback, especially with the addition of freshmen Riley Trujillo and EJ Coulson.

Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on X at @osmattmurschel.