Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Hinshaw excited about building foundation for new offensive system
It’s a Friday night in a nondescript ballroom at a hotel and new UCF offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw is preaching quarterback play to a group of high school football coaches.
On a screen behind the 50-yearold Hinshaw are highlights of quarterback drills from his time at the University of Kentucky.
Among those in attendance is Cocoa High coach Ryan Schneider, fresh off the Tigers’ fifth state championship. He watches intently as his former mentor at UCF discusses the importance of footwork, nodding in acknowledgment when Hinshaw praises Schneider’s career with the Knights: 10,976 passing yards and 82 passing touchdowns.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Hinshaw, who returned to his alma mater after being hired by UCF coach Gus Malzahn to become the program’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“It’s been crazy,” Hinshaw said. “I was thrown into recruiting right away and Gus Malzahn has been awesome working with him, and it’s a blessing.”
Hinshaw returns to UCF after spending last season as offensive coordinator at UAB. He previously worked with Malzahn as an offensive analyst during his first season with the Knights in 2021. It’s the latest stop on a coaching career spanning a quarter of a century with stops at Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Kentucky.
Now he’s back at UCF, where he set multiple career passing marks as a quarterback with the Knights from 1991-94. It’s his second go-round as an assistant, this time taking over play-calling duties from Malzahn.
Hinshaw is already hard at work despite being on the job for just about a month.
While NCAA rules limit the time Hinshaw and the coaching staff can work out players during the offseason, there have been opportunities to learn certain basic concepts before the start of spring camp in March. It’s allowed Hinshaw time to work with the three scholarship quarterbacks: John Rhys Plumlee, Tommy Castellanos and Timmy McClain.
“We’ve installed routes and a route tree,” Hinshaw said. “The first day was sloppy and didn’t look good, but we’ve improved.”
“When you first start throwing a lot of different routes in different situations and getting the receivers on the same page, it’s taking some time, but the good thing is, from the first day we started to where we are right now, it’s a massive improvement and it’s the foundation of building a vertical passing.”
The next step is installing the offense, which Hinshaw says includes much of what the Knights were running in the two seasons under Malzahn while adding his own concepts and ideas. That includes changing most of the terminology and the signals.
“We’ve changed everything we’re doing,” Hinshaw said. “It’s going to be new, but it’s all going to look a lot of the same in many ways.”
When UCF begins spring football camp in about a month, Hinshaw said he believes the Knights already will have established the foundation for the offense. That allows the team to keep building on those concepts through repetition during the 15 spring practices.
“I use the metaphor of riding a bike,” Hinshaw said. “You can show a film about the bike and how to ride one, but then you get on one and fall. So we’re going to have to fall some in the beginning and we’re going to have to learn as we go but we’re going to build it the right way.
“It’s going to be rep, rep, rep until everybody knows it like the back of their hand.”
Even with UCF finishing last season ranked No. 16 in total offense (469.6 yards per game) and No. 31 in scoring offense (32.9 points per game), Malzahn brought in Hinshaw to improve the team’s vertical passing game. The Knights finished No. 57 in passing offense (241 ypg).
Hinshaw inherited a quarterbacks room with three players with varying degrees of experience.
Plumlee, a 5th-year senior, has 42 career appearances, including 13 starts for UCF last season, while Castellanos appeared in five games for the Knights as a true freshman. After transferring from USF where he started nine games, McClain sat out last season with UCF.
“It’s good because they’ve all had experiences and played the game,” Hinshaw said.
Another challenge the Knights face this spring is managing Plumlee, who is also playing on the baseball team. Hinshaw isn’t concerned about the strain on his quarterback balancing football practices in the morning and baseball practice/ games in the afternoon.
“We’re managing that daily and he’s working extremely hard,” Hinshaw said. “He hasn’t missed one thing with football and he’s not going to in baseball. Coach Malzahn has already worked it out with the baseball coaches on all the situations that we’re going to go back and forth, so it’s going to work out well.”