KJ Jefferson Transfers to UCF: Can the Knights Compete for the Big 12 Championship in 2024?

    Once thought to be staying in the SEC, Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson pulled the early 2024 stunner by choosing UCF. Examining impact and chances of a Big 12 title.

    The UCF Knights didn’t wait long into the new year to find its replacement for QB John Rhys Plumlee. KJ Jefferson is officially lined up.

    KJ Jefferson Prime for UCF Offense

    First reported by On3, the dynamic Arkansas dual-threat quarterback made the stunning decision to transfer to UCF on Monday, the first day of 2024.

    This transfer portal addition comes in the wake of the dual-sport football and baseball star Rhys-Plumlee opting for the NFL Draft on Saturday. Jefferson’s future arrival to Orlando also gives UCF the type of running and throwing threat head coach Gus Malzahn prefers for his RPO (run-pass option) style offense.

    And Jefferson will arrive on the UCF campus with his own decorated resume: 7,923 passing yards, 67 total touchdown passes and just 18 interceptions. He also won 20 of his 39 total starts while facing the SEC gauntlet — including dealing with SEC West Division heavyweights LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama.

    Jefferson delivered one of his better games against the Tigers in Baton Rouge. He went 21 of 31 for 289 yards and tossed three touchdowns with two picks in the 34-31 loss to LSU.

    For his final season in Fayetteville, Jefferson threw 2,107 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. As a runner, he tacked on 447 yards with two rushing TDs. But for his career, Jefferson accumulated 1,876 yards with 21 rushing scores with the Razorbacks.

    Jefferson isn’t just known in the SEC for damaging defenses by air and land. With his 6’3″, 247-pound frame, he’s proven he’s tough to bring down — especially on this botched sack attempt by Western Carolina that ended with Jefferson rolling left and completing the first down.

    MORE: College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Jefferson’s addition comes with Rhys Plumlee pursuing the NFL and assures UCF can pull a QB out of the portal. Per On3’s Pete Nakos, the Knights hosted Coastal Carolina star Grayson McCall before Jefferson’s commitment. McCall, though, will stay in the Carolinas and suit up for NC State in 2024.

    UCF ends up beating out Miami and TCU for Jefferson, according to Nakos — the latter of whom became a Big 12 rival for the Knights in 2023.

    Impact of Jefferson’s Transfer & UCF’s Big 12 Title Chances

    When Jefferson first entered the portal, his top five projected destinations didn’t include UCF by CFN. All the more reason why this is classified as a portal coup for the Knights.

    UCF had a rather up-and-down first season as a Big 12 member. While the Knights became bowl-eligible, they still went a dismal 3-6 in their new conference. That includes the heartbreaking 36-35 loss to Baylor that saw UCF blow a 28-7 first-half lead, plus the narrow 31-29 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma in Norman, which saw UCF lose its fourth-quarter lead.

    But Jefferson’s arrival assures there’ll be little teaching from Malzahn and his coaching staff. They now know they have an experienced collegiate veteran signal-caller who has past experience in an RPO system.

    Malzahn gets further inner peace with this scenario — his more inexperienced wide receiving core will have a QB who knows the CFB realm very well. Malzahn and UCF signed four WRs via the early National Signing Day period. Among them was prized four-star signing Kylan Fox out of Grayson High in Loganville, Georgia.

    Jefferson has the opportunity to form a dangerous and explosive pairing with one pivotal returner: Javon Baker, UCF’s 1,000-yard WR from 2023. Baker announced on December 22 that he was returning to the Knights.

    Furthermore, UCF won’t be tangling with OU, Baylor, or even College Football Playoff qualifier and conference champion Texas ahead of the ’24 season. The Knights will be getting Big 12 newcomers Arizona State, Arizona, BYU, Utah, and Colorado (back in the conference for the first time since 2010) on their gauntlet.

    With an experienced, dynamic passer now in place, Baker’s return, and a schedule featuring schools unfamiliar with the Big 12, the stars are lining up at a place with space and star-themed uniforms. Jefferson’s arrival catapults UCF into the early conversation of becoming a player for the conference title.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football’s transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

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