ORLANDO - Not every program recruits players that receive four stars or higher. There needs to be a development process for many programs, UCF included. In fact, that’s how the UCF Football program was built to date.
From the time that UCF entered Division I in 1996, there’s been a slow building process. UCF found prospects with upside, the various UCF coaching staffs recruited speed and athleticism and often changed a player’s position or at least his primary role from high school to college. The Knights were not a program that simply plugged in the next elite recruit when a player moved on from UCF. It’s developed talent year after year.
Through that developmental approach, UCF had its ups and downs. Still, it’s the makeup of UCF Football to this point in time. For the class of 2022, the UCF Football program started receiving commitments from players that truly provide an opportunity to play early and are in fact expected to play early. There’s still a certain aspect of developmental recruits that UCF should go after, with a caveat.
Does UCF need to land more four-star and eventually five-star recruits? Absolutely. The Knights are on that path. There’s still a need for developmental players, however, and here are some things to know about their actual talent level and upside.
Read the Label Carefully
Just because a player is ranked as a two-star recruit or a three-star recruit does not mean it’s a good ranking. Even Florida State, during its time as one of college football’s most dominant programs during the 1990s, often signed prospects with upside but did not necessarily receive four-star or five-star rankings. Many of these players came from rural towns in Georgia as well as the Florida Panhandle where there’s less overall population. It did not stop the Seminoles from building a big-time program by utilizing these players, and it will not stop UCF either, despite the rankings.
Where one lives often projects recruiting rankings. It’s sad, but it’s still a fact. Prospects that live in less populated areas will not be covered nearly as often and it can lead to recruiting rankings being off.
Current UCF wide receiver commitment Tyler Griffin can be utilized as a primary point of contention to the so-called rankings. Few players possess the length, quickness, hand-eye coordination, and especially the leaping ability of Griffin. For the class of 2022, he’s only ranked as the No. 44 prospect in Georgia by 247 Sports. That’s at least close to being right, but please provide evidence of more than 25 Georgia prospects with more talent than Griffin.
If he played in or near Atlanta, his ranking would be higher. That’s just how the recruiting world works. Therefore, know that the UCF coaching staff continues to do its job and do it well.
The coaching staff for the Knights made their own evaluation of Griffin and that matters. They will be rewarded long-term for doing so. UCF is not the only program using this approach.
Recruiting Dixie from up North
Florida State is not the only program that’s used this strategy. Many teams come down South to recruit top talent, especially defensive linemen and cornerbacks, two positions that often change the outcome of games but are not as abundant up North.
West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State (especially the past few years), Purdue, and other Midwest and East Coast programs have definitely recruited states like Alabama, Georgia and Florida hard. It does not end with just those schools either.
A school to watch, traditionally speaking, when it comes to recruiting Florida would be Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets always seem to find a few developmental players in Florida and go after them like they are five-star recruits.
It’s not how the recruits start out on some recruiting profile, it’s how they perform at the college level that matters. Georgia Tech is one of the programs that’s figured that out for decades, and it’s helped them build their rosters.
In fact, many great coaches found talented players in Florida that some of the other schools in Dixie passed on, and those same players ended up being big-time football players at the college and even NFL level. UCF has followed that model traditionally, and now there’s a mesh point with developmental prospects as well as those elite players.
Finding Developmental Prospects While also Adding More Top-Notch Talent
As noted above, the Knights are going after big-time recruits now, and it’s paying off. Still, the UCF Football program needs to find good prospects with upside, and not all of them will come from Central and South Florida.
All of Florida needs to be scouted, as well as other rural areas of Dixie. That’s something UCF has done a phenomenal job with under Head Coach Gus Malzahn. That being stated, remember the aspect of how Florida State recruited in rural areas like the Florida Panhandle and parts of the bottom half of Georgia?
Do not be surprised if the Knights hit those areas even harder moving forward. Not only is there talent, but Coach Malzahn and his staff know it better than most because of his days coaching in the SEC at Arkansas and Auburn, as well as one year at Arkansas State. Why more teams do not recruit these areas remains a mystery.
It’s just amazing that so many skilled athletes from smaller towns in Georgia, Florida, and even Alabama continually get overlooked. UCF monitors many of these recruits, and one should expect the Knights to offer and sign many of them for the classes of 2022, but even more so for the classes of 2023 and beyond with additional time to evaluate and get to know these recruits.
UCF has done a tremendous job of finding developmental prospects, and there’s quite frankly no reason to go away from that under Coach Malzahn. Recruit elite athletes, coach them up, and watch them flourish.
This method worked for former Head Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State as he built his dynasty, and it’s going to be a part of how UCF continues to build its football program even while the Knights bring in more and more high-profile recruits as well.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. It will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!