Josh Heupel is taking his talents to Orlando, Fla.
Central Florida announced Heupel, Missouri’s offensive coordinator for two seasons, as its next head coach Tuesday morning. The American Athletic Conference champion Knights are 12-0 and will play in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 1. No other team in the Football Bowl Subdivision is still undefeated.
"Coach Frost did an outstanding job," Heupel said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. "My job to continue to develop those relationships and continuity. I look forward to that. We need to play smart football but we also have to be physical."
Heupel joined the Tigers in 2015 as one of Barry Odom’s initial hirings. His impact on Missouri’s offense was substantial and immediate. By moving to an extreme up-tempo pace with an abundance of big play shots, the Tigers went from the nation’s 125th-ranked offense in 2015 to the 13th-ranked offense in 2016 and seventh-ranked in 2017.
As Missouri’s quarterbacks coach, Heupel – a former All-American quarterback at Oklahoma – was key in helping develop Drew Lock. Lock was named first-team all-SEC on Monday and set school and conference records for touchdown passes this season.
Heupel earned $700,000 annually at Missouri, making him the highest-paid assistant on the staff. His contract ran through the 2018 season. If he coaches in the Tigers' bowl game on Dec. 27, he would be in line for a $42,000 bonus in a loss or $56,000 in a win.
His base salary made him the 16th-highest paid assistant in the Southeastern Conference and the 32nd-highest paid assistant in the country, according to a 2016 report from USA Today.
Because Heupel is accepting a head coaching job outside the SEC, he will not owe Missouri a buyout for terminating his contract early.
Nebraska hired UCF’s current coach, Scott Frost, on Saturday. Frost began coaching the Knights in 2016, one year after they went 0-12.
Heupel will not coach the Knights in the bowl game, but will watch in from a booth at Mercedes-Benz stadium. UCF is working on logistics that would allow Frost to coach that game.
Heupel said he was able to catch "bits and pieces" of UCF's play this season.
"There are special players coming back when you look at the roster. For the most part the nucleus on both sides of the ball are coming back," Heupel said. "There is a great quarterback coming back who made plays with both his arms and legs. Always great to have that piece coming back."
Heupel said in a statement before the news conference that he is excited to get a staff together and get to work. He didn't take long to start assembling his assistants.
Heupel’s coaching career started at Oklahoma as the quarterbacks coach from 2006-10. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator from 2011-14, but was fired by former Sooners coach Bob Stoops following the 2013-14 season.
Heupel was the offensive coordinator at Utah State for one season before Odom brought him to Missouri in 2016.
He was previously linked to South Alabama’s head coaching vacancy this offseason before taking the job at UCF.
Missouri will now have to replace two coordinators in the offseason, as defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross was fired in September.
Shortly after Heupel was named coach, he announced that he was bringing in Randy Shannon as his defensive coordinator. The former Miami coach finished the season as Florida's interim coach.
"When I was first contacted I poured over some guys who I wanted." Heupel said. "Me being an offensive guy, getting the right hire on defense was critical. I have competed and coached against Randy. He plays a 3-4 scheme and believes in multiple coverages. Has a rich history in Florida and recruiting and that's the lifeblood of our program."
UCF athletic director Danny White believes UCF has "identified one of the brightest minds in college football" in Heupel.
"You could see his knowledge," White said. "He is one of brightest offensive minds in the game. It puts us in a great position moving ahead. I'm confident we can continue the momentum."
Heupel, indeed, arrives with an impressive resume, having helped Sam Bradford win a Heisman Trophy winner as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and getting Missouri's offense on track over the past two seasons.
Heupel said he runs a no huddle and fast paced style of offense.
"That's the style they want and that's what's important to me," he said. "That's why I want an aggressive style on defense as well."
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.