UCF’s Jason Johnson, Ricky Barber to return for 2023 season

New UCF defensive coordinator Addison Williams will have two of the Knights’ top defenders back for the program’s inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference.

Senior linebacker Jason Johnson and redshirt junior defensive tackle Ricky Barber Jr. announced their intentions to return for the 2023 season on social media Saturday.

Johnson is taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility granted to athletes from the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Barber could return for the ‘24 season as well if he wants to do the same.

Johnson led the Knights with 126 total tackles — the 8th most for a single season in program history and more than double the next tackler. He added a sack and a forced fumble.

Barber recorded a team-high 12 quarterback hurries and finished second on the team in both sacks (3) and tackles for loss (9) to go with 4 pass breakups. He totaled 54 tackles.

Both earned first-team all-AAC honors from the league’s coaches following the season.

They’re also joining quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, tight end Alec Holler, offensive lineman Lokahi Pauole and defensive end Josh Ceslicar as Knights who have shared they will be back next season.

UCF finished its season Wednesday with a 30-13 loss to Duke in the Military Bowl. The Knights will shift their focus to the offseason in preparation for the jump to the Power Five league.

“We just have to go into the offseason working hard and get ready for the Big 12,” Celiscar said after the game.

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.