ORLANDO, Fla. — Butch Davis is a legend in South Florida, just not as a Panther. He has been resurrected from the coaching purgatory known as “TV analyst” after six long years away from the sidelines.



The former Hurricane head coach has brought in new coaches, a new system and plenty of hype to the Conference USA program. Plenty of starters return, but the new bells and whistles paired with the unknown of such a gap in coaching tape have made FIU an enigma for UCF in preparation for the season opener on Thursday night.

Coaches in Orlando have said that they are preparing for anything and everything. They are looking back to North Carolina, Tulsa, Memphis, anywhere that a coordinator or the head honcho himself may have made a stop in the past decade or so.

“That’s why I say our guys are going to have be ready for any kind of look they see,” said Knights’ Head Coach Scott Frost. “Our defense gives us a lot of looks that should prepare our offense, our offense gives our defense a lot of looks that should prepare them. There’s not much that we haven’t seen on both sides of the ball that an offense and defense can line up in. we just have to make the adjustments.”

With the system and scheme still residing in murky waters, the personnel available may dictate much of FIU’s in-game action.

What to watch for:

  • FIU Quarterback Alex McGough is the only starting quarterback in Conference USA headed into his fourth year as a starter. The QB was given a 75.5 overall rating from Pro Football Focus, completed 58.39 percent of his passes and posted a 13-to-11 touchdown to interception ratio.
  • His “backup” Maurice Alexander is not your typical No. 2 QB. He is a dual-threat player with a skill-set separate from McGough’s, and was heavily involved in both the passing and running game in 2016. Watch for athletic packages featuring Alexander, who finished last year with the third most rushing yards on the team.
  • Running Back Alex Gardner has returned to the Panthers as the all-time program rushing leader, jumping off from an average yard per carry of over five yards last year. He racked up 930 yards and six scores along the way to that dominant per carry average.
  • The Panthers offered up 31 sacks last year and lost their best lineman to graduation, freeing up a huge opportunity for the much-hyped UCF front seven and their deadly pass rush
  • Butch Davis will be looking for a statement in this game, an in-state game that could pay off significant dividends in establishing that he is for real in his return to the game. The Panthers will go out of their way to be exciting, to play fast and make a splash.