John Rhys Plumlee's return to QB is 'truly a blessing'
John Rhys Plumlee spent the last 18 months at Ole Miss as a wide receiver, but has always been a quarterback at heart. Now at UCF, he's returned to his original position and competing with Mikey Keene for the starting job.
"Amazing," Plumlee said when asked about returning to quarterback. "That's where my heart's always been. Growing up, it's what I loved to do. To be able to do it again and get back behind center, it's truly a blessing. Something I love to do."
Plumlee caught up with the media on Tuesday following the Knights' fourth practice of spring.
Was there some early rust making the move back to full-time quarterback?
"I think there's always a little rust after you take a little bit of time off," Plumlee said. "Stuff you can clean up. Obviously pocket presence, getting depth on drops. Making sure you can maneuver back there while still keeping your eyes down field and making good throws. That's always something you can work on."
During his Ole Miss career, Plumlee mentioned he had the privilege to work with offensive minds Lane Kiffin, Jeff Lebby and Rich Rodriguez, so he feels well versed in understanding schemes which is helping him transition to Gus Malzahn and Chip Lindsey's system.
Has he had a moment yet when he felt things were clicking?
"I think so. Once you're back there and make a good throw, you're like this is great. Back doing what you love doing. As you know, at the quarterback position you've got to have a short memory. Whether you're doing good or you're doing bad, you've got to flip the page and go to the next play. You see it on film later. Coach Rich Rod my freshman year used to say you never look as good on film and never look as bad. That seems to be the truth."
As a two-sport player at Ole Miss, Plumlee always devoted 100 percent of his time to baseball during previous springs. At UCF, he's juggling both although he's not eligible to play baseball this season.
"This is my first time ever doing spring (football)," Plumlee said. "Ever. I've always been doing baseball in the spring, Obviously the waiver (for immediate baseball eligibility) didn't go through, so I couldn't participate in baseball competition. It's all about time management. Football is in the morning. Baseball is in the afternoons. My focus has shifted a little bit because football is the next season, but it doesn't mean I'm not there with the guys, hitting every once in a while to keep the rust off the baseball swing."
It is sometimes a bit tiring, but Plumlee harkens back to his childhood excitement about playing both sports.
"Every once in a while (it's tiring), but you go back to 7-year-old John Rhys and what did 7-year-old John Rhys want to do? I wanted to play football and baseball at the highest level. I'm getting to do that. I feel truly blessed to do that. Maybe some days you get out of bed, your body is aching and you want to hit the snooze, but 7-year-old John Rhys wouldn't be able to sleep. That's what I always go back to."
Plumlee said it was extremely disappointing though he can't play in baseball games this spring.
"It breaks my heart," he said. "Baseball was my first love. I started playing baseball earlier than football. I know God's got a plan. It's already written. Even though it breaks my heart, yeah I wanted to play, but I know God's got a greater plan."
"Amazing receivers," Plumlee said. "Those guys can really run. Can really run routes and catch."
Jaylon Griffin is also starting to emerge.
"Like Coach Lindsey said, I think JG is a big piece in this thing. And Kobe (Hudson) coming from Auburn is a great talent. Those guys have stood out to me. Jordan (Johnson) as well. Amari (Johnson). Great route runner, really quick, has a good feel. I think we've got the opportunity to have really good depth."
How is Plumlee viewing his role in the quarterback competition with Mikey Keene?
"Obviously Mikey is a great talent. Obviously a stud of a dude. Knows the game really well. Has the arm to make all the throws. Has the athletic ability to get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet as well. It's been really fun to compete with Mikey. Compete with Tommy (Castellanos), Parker (Navarro) and all those guys. I think it takes everybody's game to the next level when you put competition into the mix. Everybody is forced to get better. To have an opportunity to compete against somebody against Mikey is truly a blessing and is fun to be able to do as well."
What's his view of freshman quarterback Thomas Castellanos?
"He's a stud," Plumlee said. "There's no doubt about it. He's really athletic. I think he's a lot like me coming out of high school. The first couple days, his head was kind of spinning but now he's starting to settle in. The game is slowing down for him. Freaky athlete. Really good arm, really good legs. He's gonna be a player for sure."
Quarterbacks haven't been "live" in practices thus far - meaning no hits from the defense - so Plumlee hasn't really had a true opportunity to show off his running ability in a competitive setting.
"I always love being live just because I get the opportunity to make plays with my feet," Plumlee said. "If it was up to me, I'd go live but ultimately it's up to (the coaches)."
Asked about a highlight of today's practice, Plumlee connected with Amari Johnson for a big gain.
"I threw a deep ball one-on-one," he said. "Amari ran a really good inside fade route. Beat the guy over the top. When they're that open, you just throw it. He obviously makes a great catch. Would've been a touchdown. Great to see guys get that open. That makes it easy on anybody."
Plumlee is excited for Saturday's scrimmage.
"I want to bring a lot of energy. I want the offense to win. I want the offense to score a bunch of points. Whatever that looks like, I want the offense to score a bunch of points."