QB John Rhys Plumlee excited to make big waves at UCF
UCF landed a big "boom" Sunday morning from former Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who announced his intent to transfer following the conclusion of his weekend visit.
The Hattiesburg, Miss., native was one of the most electric players in the SEC during his freshman season in 2019, starting eight games that year and running all over defenses in the process. He set school records, including breaking Ole Miss' quarterback rushing record with 212 yards and four touchdowns vs. No. 1 LSU.
The past two seasons Plumlee has focused on wide receiver as Matt Corral told hold of the position under new coach Lane Kiffin, but always wanted the opportunity to continue playing the position he loves. Plumlee is a perfect fit for what UCF head coach Gus Malzahn likes to run offensively and he's excited about his future in Orlando.
UCFSports.com caught up with him to talk about his decision.
What was the initial communication like with UCF? Did you have a prior relationship with Coach Gus Malzahn or any of the other coaches coming out of high school?
"In high school, I was recruited by both Coach Malzahn and Coach (Chip) Lindsey. They first were recruiting me to play wide receiver. I told them I appreciated the opportunity, but I want to play quarterback. They came back on late and decided they liked me for quarterback at Auburn, but I had already narrowed things down. But I've always trusted the coaches, Coach Malzahn and Coach Lindsey. They say what they mean. They weren't trying to say I could play quarterback and then move me to slot receiver. I just had a better opportunity elsewhere. But I've always loved the offense with Coach Malzahn and Coach Lindsey.
"So when I got in the portal I got a call. God presents opportunities sometimes and he never makes mistakes. So I got a call from Coach Malzahn. Sure enough, I came to visit and knew this was the place to be for sure."
How was the visit this weekend? I'm sure you already did a lot of research prior to coming down.
"Once I got the call, I started looking at the team and knew they have some really awesome players at UCF. A bunch of weapons and really talented guys. So the thought of having the opportunity to come down here with the core returning was really intriguing to me. I'm just really thankful God has blessed me with the opportunity to do so."
Transfers get to go through recruiting a second time. How was the visit? Was it like a typical weekend like you remember from high school?
"Pretty much the same thing from high school. But it's kind of different. You're no longer a high school kid. You've kind of seen and done it. But just coming down here and being around the staff was just really exciting. I was able to sit down and talk with them, really break down the offense and what their plans are. Obviously the trajectory of this program with a really young fanbase and young school is exciting. UCF has the potential to make some big waves."
How did the coaches say you'd fit into the offense with what their needs are and how your athletic ability fits into what they like to do?
"We really talked about all the weapons they'll have around me. Ryan O'Keefe and some really good offensive linemen. You've got Alec Holler, a great tight end. There were guys coming in on visits this weekend, outside receiver potentially. Flash (Jaylon Robinson) is obviously a great player. So a bunch of guys that have a big opportunity to make a big impact in the game.
"Then Coach Malzahn's offense usually does a lot better when he has a mobile quarterback. I think that opens up one on ones for some guys that can really do damage like O'Keefe and Flash. They explained to me the running aspect at the quarterback position can open up a lot of things."
You initially played quarterback at Ole Miss, getting a taste and what that was like as a freshman and then moved to wide receiver. Now you have a fresh start with an opportunity to start at quarterback. How exciting is that for you to potentially end your career playing the position you love?
"It's a really big deal for me. It's where my heart has always been. Everybody sees my athletic ability and would say maybe you could be a safety or slot receiver. That's a compliment because they think I'm a good athlete, but I've always been a guy that likes to bet on myself and I think I can be a pretty good quarterback.
"It is exciting for me. I did the wide receiver thing at Ole Miss because I love Ole Miss so much. I thought I was going to get the opportunity to come back and play quarterback, but that wasn't the case. So I decided I needed to go elsewhere because I do think I'm a pretty good quarterback. I like betting on myself."
What was it like getting to know the players? I'm not sure if everybody was in town yet with the semester not starting yet, but who did you get to meet?
"I got to hang out with Alec Holler. He's a really cool guy. I got to shake Ryan O'Keefe's hand. He was really an awesome dude. I'm real excited to meet the rest of the guys today and tomorrow and as the spring goes on. I haven't met a whole lot yet, but I'm excited to meet those guys."
So in the social media posts, you're not just committing for football. You're committing for UCF Baseball. Did you have a conversation with head coach Greg Lovelady about joining his team?
"Yeah. I got to go over there and get to know them. Getting a plan together for how the spring is going to look and how it will go down between spring football and baseball because they do crossover a little. They seem to have that covered. We'll have to play some of it by ear. They seem really confident I should be able to do both pretty smoothly."
Do you need a waiver to be eligible for baseball this season? Most guys don't play two different sports, but the baseball portal deadline was last summer.
"I'm hoping I'll have the ability to be eligible this year. Baseball is one of my first loves and I'm not ready to give it up yet. I also think I can possibly make money playing baseball in the MLB... I really want to continue playing football and baseball for as long as I can. I want to be eligible (for baseball) this year because it means a ton to me."
I'm sure you've looked at the UCF Baseball schedule. UCF hosts Ole Miss in early March. That's got to be interesting, facing off against some of your best friends on the other side now.
"Yeah, for sure. That's definitely gonna be a fun one. I love all those guys over there like brothers. To be able to play against them on a different team will be a neat experience. I'm sure there's gonna be some trash talk back and forth just messing with each other just because I love those guys so much. I'm really excited to do the things I love here at UCF."
I'm sure the coaches probably had a pretty good idea of your intentions, but how did the actual commitment take place? Did you meet with Coach Malzahn and tell him you were all in?
"So we drove down from Hattiesburg and brought a bunch of stuff. The plan was, hey, if we get down here and it looks good then I'm gonna go ahead and commit because I think it's a really good opportunity. So they kind of had an idea, if this goes well we should get a commitment out of him. When I told him, 'Hey, I'm excited about it, let's do it,' they were really fired up. Coach Malzahn and especially Coach Lindsey."
You said you brought a bunch of stuff down. So are you down here for good and starting classes immediately? What's your timeline for moving down to Orlando?
"There's a pitcher on the baseball team, David Litchfield, he had a house with a spot open. He reached out and said I could live there for the semester. He needed some help on rent. So I'm moving in with him. Not quite done yet. I should be starting classes tomorrow and get started."
You wore No. 10 at Ole Miss. Is that the number you'll have at UCF as well?
"Yeah, I'll get to wear it in football. I think there's a baseball player with No. 10. We'll have to play him over ping pong. We'll see if I can't talk him into it. If not, not a huge deal. I love No. 10 and the fact I get to wear it here."
How excited are you for this opportunity? Are you looking forward to earning a starting job, hopefully leading the team to a conference championship? If you're still here in 2023 then you could have a chance to lead UCF into the Big 12 as well. How excited are you for the future and what kind of goals do you have?
"I'm really excited. I haven't met a ton of the guys, but I watched a lot of video of the talent on the team. Obviously the goal is to be the guy going into the season, but we'll see what kind of plans God has. He doesn't make any mistakes. But the goals are to definitely be the guy. Make big waves because we have the talent and personnel to do so. I think UCF in 2022 is going to be something to watch out for."