MIRAMAR, Fla. - What a tournament! That’s as many prospects in one location as any person could see. Teams from California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, Georgia, and of course Florida were all on hand for Battle Miami, and it did not disappoint.
Here are two recruiting nuggets and evaluations that kickoff the 2023 in-person evaluations for Inside The Knights regarding UCF targets. This is just a sampling, as there will be many more tidbits of information coming out over the course of the next several weeks with more national tournaments taking place right here in Florida like Pylon Orlando next weekend, when several prospects will come to Florida and not only go to Pylon, but also take unofficial visits to UCF for the first big recruiting weekend.
Darren “Goldie” Lawrence, Wide Receiver - 2023
The Sanford (Fla.) Seminole prospect was his usual self. Overpowering defensive backs, catching touchdowns, and just playing hard. He even continued the trend of playing some defense, and that’s going to help him grow his overall game. Lawrence did not seem one bit concerned about anything off the gridiron, as it should be while competing against top-notch national competition. As for Lawrence’s recruitment, a couple of notes.
He was happy to chop it up about how he played and what was going on with Seminole players coming back for next season, but did not even bring up anything about recruiting, so it was just left alone in terms of direct questions. When Lawrence has something on his mind, he’s going to let it fly. He’s very blunt.
There have been several small exchanges in the last week with Lawrence in regards to his recruitment, but he did not seem like a player ready to pop based on some small talk. Now, if he does indeed follow through and unofficially visit UCF this next weekend and subsequently commit to Head Coach Gus Malzahn, that’s not going to be a shock either.
He’s a local player. Lawrence knows UCF certainly wants him in the 2023 recruiting class. With that, there are some areas to figure out not only with Lawrence, and with other top recruits as well. Based on how recruiting is trending across the country, UCF has now entered a different style of recruiting with the level of prospects being offered and chased.
For example, even if Lawrence commits to UCF in the near future, his recruitment would be far from over. It’s also why no direct questions were asked on Saturday or Sunday. His recruitment will be a marathon, not a sprint. Bet with anyone: regardless of where he commits, Lawrence is going to take multiple official visits thereafter (one man’s strong opinion). Generally speaking, Lawrence, as well as several other top-notch prospects UCF continues to pursue, will take official visits to other programs after committing to UCF. How the UCF coaching staff handles this will be interesting because signing truly elite talent requires patience and fortitude.
Many of the UCF coaches already played this game while being a part of the nasty SEC recruiting wars while coaching for Auburn. That experience will be leaned on heavily with the class of 2023 and the prospects that Inside The Knights knows that UCF wants to sign.
If Lawrence does select UCF fairly soon, yes indeed, he will be asked if he’s still going to take visits. With that in mind, on to the next top prospect.
Gavin Hill, Defensive Line - 2023
When someone first walks onto a football field and sees Hill, it’s pretty likely that person will stop and stare. That’s a big dude. It certainly happened to this writer last fall when scouting now UCF signee Quan Lee. Having not seen Hill since last fall, do note that he’s bigger and stronger than ever. It’s a major reason why the Gainesville (Fla.) Buchholz defensive lineman is being targeted by so many schools, UCF included. When asked which schools Hills had coming at him the hardest, he mentioned but one school.
He’s probably overwhelmed by recruiting right now, like quite a few 2023 recruits, and he’s far from a decision. Some of Hill’s offers include UCF, Miami, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia.
Seeing Hill run around during a seven-on-seven game, that’s the type of player that can be a three technique or a strong side end, depending on down and situation. His versatility is an example of what the UCF defensive coaching staff would like to add to the roster moving forward. His natural athleticism and strength cannot be taught, and he’s only 6’3” or 6’4” and about 250-pounds right now. Hill is still filling out his frame. His upside is absolutely tremendous.
Overall Buzz, UCF Football
There were a handful of conversations with top recruits and coaches this past weekend (and last) about UCF. Without question, UCF’s image is on the rise. Some of these conversations were started by coaches or parents about UCF, which is an absolutely great sign for the Knights. UCF has grabbed the attention of several prospects many probably would be surprised by, and the greater Central Florida region is especially comfortable with UCF Football now.
Why? Good question. Best guess, UCF’s coaching staff and recruiting staff have put in the work to build relationships with everyone involved in a young man’s recruitment. That’s about all one can ask as a UCF fan.
It was pretty cool to hear some of the chatter about UCF and not just teams like Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, the usual suspects. UCF Football is definitely on the rise.
There will be a plethora of short articles with prospect evaluations coming up over the next few days. Look for those to start this afternoon at Inside The Knights. Lots to talk about with the class of 2023 talent being so incredible within the state of Florida. Additionally, the Daily Knight podcasts will kick back up after the long weekend in Miami.