UCF Football Must Balance Recruiting Prep Players and College Players from the Transfer Portal

The UCF football program has a unique recruiting situation. Numerous transfer portal prospects continue to be interested in the Knights, but how many transfers should the Knights take each year versus signing high school prospects?
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The transfer portal is booming with college football players looking for a second (and even third) chance. Should the Knights continually raid the transfer portal, or should the Knights be more selective and stick to recruiting high school prospects? It’s not an easy decision.

For the 2021 football season, UCF has taken a graduate transfer like linebacker Bryson Anderson, who already completed his degree from Kennesaw State University after being a two-time All-American linebacker. He’s an obvious choice to come join the Knights because he’s very talented and a proven commodity. Of course there is defensive end Big Kat Bryant that played for Auburn under now UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn.

He’s a potential game changer because of his pass rushing skills off the edge, and he’s playing a position that UCF and every other major college program constantly craves more bodies on the depth chart. 2021 is a special circumstance for UCF because the Knights already hit nine transfers. That’s a big number.

This is a transition year for the Knights. With UCF roster that saw departures to the transfer portal of its own, plus graduation, the 2021 transfer portal options might be a little more appealing than what it might be down the line. For the class of 2022 and beyond, there could be a shift in philosophy.

Recruiting High School Prospects Continues to be a Priority

As has been noted several by Inside The Knights, UCF football is located in the middle of arguably the most fruitful state for recruiting. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Recruit the local talent!

Unlike the last UCF coaching staff, Coach Malzahn, his assistant coaches, and everyone that works within the recruiting department in any capacity has made hitting Florida prep programs a priority. That’s not going to change. Take that to the bank.

There’s a plethora of talent located in Florida, and quite a bit of that talent can and will compete for immediate playing time when it arrives at UCF. By staying the course and continuing to build relationships with Florida prep programs across the Sunshine State, the Knights will reap the benefits come national signing day each year.

Adding a few Georgia, Alabama, and Texas prospects to boot also helps. In short, the Knights are as well situated to improve their program from local talent as any college football program in the land.

The Benefits of High School Prospects In UCF’s Program After They Sign

Developing a prospect over the course of four years, and possibly five years if that player redshirts, helps to set standards within a program. When players continually do the same routine, it establishes unity and accountability. For instance, how a team lifts weights, goes through summer play-only workouts, or goes about handling academics and social life are all aspects of a college football program such as UCF.

When UCF coaches recruit high school players, those young men will feed off of the older players that know the routine. Most dominant programs -- see Nebraska and Florida State in the 1990s or Alabama during the past 14 seasons -- have a set pattern of how they do everything. Those programs won with high school players going through the same systems over and over. That’s something UCF is already trying to establish as well.

Just from being around the high school camps and seven-on-seven tournaments that UCF held, it was quite structured. The entire UCF staff worked in unison to make the most of every single moment. The standard is set, and it’s effectiveness is multiplied with high school prospects.

Simply put, four years is better than one for a graduate transfer more often than not. Anderson is a great addition to the 2021 UCF roster, for instance, as is Bryant, but both players are most likely the exception and not the rule.

The Number of High School Players UCF Signs Will Vary Each Year 

Injuries, transfers, and early departures to the NFL are all a part of the college football world, and in turn, must be accounted for on the fly with recruiting. That’s life in big-time college football. That’s where the portal comes in, and it can adjust the number of high school players signed during any one given recruiting campaign.

There’s simply no specific way to project a career-ending injury or player suddenly deciding to transfer. It happens. College programs such as UCF must adapt, and they do every day. With that said, here is a baseline.

At minimum, look for the Knights to sign 15 to 18 high school prospects per year. Again, that will vary during unique situations, good or bad as it relates to the amount of high school talent available combined with UCF’s position needs.

If it’s an abnormally great year for Orlando prep talent, the number of high school signees could also jump up higher to 20 or 21 high school recruits. It’s a year-by-year situation that will remain fluid. As for the future of recruiting high school players, it’s going to improve very soon.

Time is on UCF’s Side

Once the 2022 signing day passes, the UCF coaches and administrative staff will immediately be focused on the class of 2023 (and yes, it’s already started in many aspects). That’s a full year to recruit the underclassmen and build relationships with them and their coaches. That’s great news because Florida’s class of 2023 is absolutely loaded!

The more time that goes by, the more relationships that will be built. UCF is sitting in a goldmine of talent and it’s called Florida. There’s so much to sell at the University of Central Florida, and this coaching staff believes in the long-term vision of winning a national championship. That starts with Florida high school prospects flooding the roster. One final aspect to consider.

Finding the Final Pieces to the Puzzle

While the Knights could continue to add players from the portal to the 2021 roster, signing roughly five or six players from the portal is the most likely scenario beyond this year. Most importantly, UCF needs the players that get them over the hump.

It could be a cornerback or a left tackle. There’s no telling. The portal is constantly adding players looking for a new home. For UCF, the goal is to find a few gems that improve the Knights’ roster and depth to the point they can win a college football national title. It’s really that simple. Elite talent over volume will be the objective. Overall, the Knights will find the balance necessary, between high school players and transfers from the portal, to build a great college football roster.

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