Jake Hescock could be poised to have a pretty big season for the UCF football team. At least, that's what his head coach believes.
"Jake's had a really good training camp at tight end," UCF head coach Josh Heupel said in a Zoom conference with members of the Orlando, Fla., media.
Not only is Hescock the starting tight end for UCF, but he has been named a team captain. The praise for Hescock came in a tweet by the Salisbury School football program.
"Jake Hescock '16 named captain at Central Florida! The ability to play at the BCS level is one accomplishment. Being selected captain gives you a greater appreciation of his character. We are all smiling with pride from the Hilltop!"
Hescock, the Pittsfield native, is a redshirt senior at UCF and the No. 1 tight end on the Knights' roster. While he is a redshirt senior, the NCAA had granted all fall sport athletes another year of eligibility, so it is possible that Hescock could be back in Orlando next year.
"He has made huge strides here. His understanding, his ability to play with technique, play with speed and be able to split out and do some things that we maybe haven't done with him in the past," Heupel said. "We're looking for a huge year from him."
Nationally-ranked UCF opens its 2020 college football season on Saturday, when it travels to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. The Knights are currently ranked 14th in the Associated Press writers poll and 13th in the coaches poll.
The 6-foot-7, 252-pound Hescock played in 12 games last year for the Knights. He had nine catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. His best game statistically came just about a year ago, on Sept. 14, at home against Stanford. He caught four passes for 47 yards and one touchdown in the 45-27 win over the Cardinal.
UCF's season opens on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Georgia Tech. The kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and will be seen on ESPN.
The Knights are ranked 21st in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches 2op 25 preseason polls. They are the preseason pick to win the American Athletic Conference championship. In the preseason coaches' poll, UCF had 10 first-place votes, to seven for runner-up Cincinnati and two for third-place Memphis.
The top three teams in the AAC preseason poll are separated by only 12 points. UCF has 204, to 201 for Cincinnati and 192 for Memphis.
The Knights open conference play on Sept. 26 at East Carolina, which is the closest Hescock and his mates will come to New England in the regular season. UCF hosts Temple, and would have traveled to UConn had the Huskies remained in the AAC.
Alex Golesh is Hescock's position coach this year. Golesh is new to the UCF staff, as he was hired in January after four seasons as the tight ends coach at Iowa State. Golesh is also the co-offensive coordinator.
Golesh has a seven-member tight end room but only Hescock and junior-college transfer Zach Marsh-Wojan are upper classmen. As of right now, it appears as if Marsh-Wojan would be the backup. There are four freshmen in the room and one redshirt sophomore.
"I think the tight end position has come along. We put such an emphasis on trying to get somebody ready behind Jake. Jake has done a good job of trying to lead, and learning how to lead," Golesh said in a Zoom conference late last week, "and continuing to push forward both in our room and as a senior on the offense as well."
The new tight ends coach said the big thing for the Knights is to find a backup for Hescock. None of the current tight ends in the room had caught a pass in a game.
"The tight end, in this offense, is such a pivotal part in the run game and the pass game, in terms of being able to protect the quarterback at times," said Golesh.
As to the job Hescock is doing and the strides he has made, the new coach had nothing but praise.
"Jake, it took a minute for him to understand what he could be. When I first got here, he was confident in certain parts of his game in terms of the run blocking part of it," Golesh said. "I challenged him early that we're going to push you to be the best version of yourself and not limit you to what you have done. Let's see what you can add to this offense beyond what you had been doing in terms of your role.
"The more you can do at that spot, the more you can be multiple offensively."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter or 413-496-6253.