Former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel should probably consider sending Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel a nice Christmas gift.

Gabriel was listed by 247Sports this week as an early 2022 Heisman Trophy candidate.

That’s despite not knowing where Gabriel will be playing in 2022 (the former three-star recruit entered the transfer portal in late November).

Seeing Gabriel pop up on a Heisman watch list is a bit surprising, mostly because he only played in three games in 2021. And we don’t know where Gabriel will land next season.

Gabriel is essentially on 247Sports’ 2022 Heisman watch list based on what he did in 2019 and 2020 at UCF under Heupel.

Despite his success under Heupel, Gabriel took a shot at his former coach’s offense earlier this year.

Gabriel, specifically, criticized Heupel’s offense for being too simple.

“It’s not as fast because of the fact it’s not as simple,” said Gabriel (via 247Sports). “We get to the line quickly but there’s a lot more in the process that goes into it rather than with Heup. We’d line it, call it and try to be as fast as possible. At times it was really rushed [in 2020] because of how fast we played, so you’re just kind of learning on the fly with every play. You’re kinda just running to grass. With Gus, I truly feel like we’re scheming things up, getting into looks you like, giving you answers and if he doesn’t like the look, he checks it, which is something I like.”

Without Heupel’s “simple” offense, Gabriel wouldn’t be a potential Heisman candidate right now.

And clearly whatever UCF was doing under new head coach Gus Malzahn didn’t please Gabriel, either. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be in the transfer portal right now.

Heupel’s reputation as a quarterback whisperer is much deserved. He turned Drew Lock into an NFL prospect at Missouri. He helped Gabriel become relevant in the Heisman discussion, and he turned Hendon Hooker at Tennessee into a potential NFL draft selection (speaking of Hooker, why isn’t he in the Heisman discussion?).

Instead of lambasting Heupel’s offense, Gabriel should be thanking Heupel for helping him develop into a Heisman candidate. Without Heupel, Gabriel is likely nowhere close to being in this conversation.

Featured image via Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports