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The Ceiling is High: Donovan McNabb Discusses UCF QB McKenzie Milton

We interviewed a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback to see what he thought of the Knights’ new freshman starter.

UCF Freshman QB McKenzie Milton Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We linked up with six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb to discuss UCF freshman QB McKenzie Milton. Milton makes his second start on Saturday against FIU, a game which will be broadcast online at beIN SPORTS (these are the folks who started streaming CUSA games this year, alleviating some of that conference’s broadcast nightmare). McNabb will be one of the commentators on Saturday.

Milton showed promise against Maryland, going 21/36 for 260 yards passing with two touchdowns and adding a touchdown on the ground. Of course, it wasn’t all good. Far from it. Milton fumbled six times (losing three of them) and had an interception when he threw over the receiver’s head. Still, Milton looks to be both the future and the ‘now’ at QB, an impression McNabb agrees with.

On McNabb’s Overall Evaluation of Milton:

“I know a lot of people have compared him to Marcus Mariota [...], but I like what the kid has shown as far as his pocket presence, still being a young guy, not afraid to sit in there, and the coaches allow him to just play football.

Sometimes coaches want you be robotic, especially in your freshman year [...] but [UCF’s] offense is predicated off of his mobility, and I love the fact that they allow that offense, and everyone around him, to be able to make plays when he’s able to use his legs - and that creates opportunities for guys on the outside to get open.”

On Milton’s ceiling:

“I think the ceiling is high.”

McNabb sees Milton’s mobility as a substantial part of the reason: “[A]ll offensive linemen aren’t built like the Dallas Cowboys of old or the Dallas Cowboys now [...] You’re going to need a dual threat quarterback [...] guys who can at least take a step and find a lane in the pocket or get outside to buy time for your receivers to get open.”

On Milton’s downside:

McNabb identifies Milton’s downside – like many first time starters – as “caution plays.”

“Meaning they see a guy open, but they kind of hesitate on throwing it, and when they realize, it may be too late. So that part of the game is something he’s going to have to learn and develop, to anticipate throws, and then you’ll see him start to play more from the pocket.“

One thing that doesn’t concern McNabb is Milton’s height (5’11”). “[W]e have guys in the NFL who aren’t as a tall. I mean, Drew Brees has shown that you don’t have to be 6’3”, 6’4”, you have to find passing lanes.”

On Milton’s fumble in double overtime against Maryland:

“When you’re trying to make a play, all you’re thinking about is making that play. So sometimes you tend to lose concentration and the fundamentals.“

On whether Milton is more of a threat than fellow Knights QBs Justin Holman or Nick Patti:

“Well, I would say yes. I mean, you look at the rest of the guys, not to take anything away from them, but here’s kind of a young, fresh energy that the football team has, and you can see the way they play around him. I mean, when [Milton] makes plays outside the pocket, you see everyone on the sideline get excited.”

“I think for what [UCF is] trying to do, they can continue to go out, they can develop, and build, and recruit around his talent.”

On whether Holman could regain the starting job:

“If you’re going to go with [Milton], you gotta go with him. [...] I can maybe see a decision being made if he struggles, but at this particular point, I don’t think there will be a switch any time soon.”

On opportunities against FIU’s secondary on Saturday:

“This FIU secondary has struggled. They struggled. I think what [the Knights] have and what they can present, they can take full advantage of it. I think in this offense, you have to be able to establish the run game first. You establish the run game, that sets up the play action where safeties begin to get nosey, your linebackers start to jump in the gap, and then you can take advantage of shots over the top.”