Continuing from yesterday’s discussion, the following will move towards what UCF Football can do in the years ahead. Recruiting is changing throughout college football, and it’s going to be advantageous to UCF Football.
The only real question is just how long it takes for UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff to consistently land a few of the truly elite national prospects. That’s discussed below, including a few predictions about which years will see an uptick with that type of recruiting windfall.
Can the Knights close with a few big name 2022 recruits? Will it be more likely that the class of 2023 and 2024 offer more elite high school prospects? One could argue either way, but the discussion still needs to continue with development, UCF Football’s bread and butter.
Sign Talented Recruits, Create Really Good College Football Players
Each recruit must totally buy into nutrition (this is probably the hardest step for natural athletes that are used to eating whatever they want and still winning at the high school level), sleep habits, a very rigorous training regimen including strength and cardiovascular work, and then grasping an overall team-first scheme to reach maximum potential. The list could actually be extended, but that’s a good starter list. The last part regarding team-first is especially important for UCF, and here’s why, beginning with this video:
Many of the players that UCF brought in during the past decade did not possess the ability to walk in and compete as true freshmen. Redshirt, play some situational football like special teams as a redshirt freshman, compete for significant playing time as a redshirt sophomore, then be an instrumental component for the UCF Football team as a redshirt junior and redshirt senior.
For that process to work with one player is nice, but it takes a bunch of developmental players to make a really good team (see UCF in 2017 as an example). Mix in a few special players whether they were elite recruits or not like the Griffin twins, and UCF’s recipe for success works. Well, it’s one way that a college football program can be very good. There’s also the more traditional way, and that’s recruiting elite talent every single year.
Defining an Elite Recruiting Program
Take Ohio State as an example. There are many elite recruits that sign with the Buckeyes. It’s still a very well coached team and wins a lot of football games with scheme, but talent is the overwhelming reason the Buckeyes are consistently at the top of the Big 10.
The Buckeyes are similar to Alabama or a handful of other programs that usually finish within the top 10 of the recruiting rankings, and that means they bring in numerous big-time recruits each year. For the 2021 SI All-American post-signing day SI 99, the Buckeyes signed 11 of those 99 (as did Alabama). Conversely, UCF did not sign a single player from the2021 version of the SI 99.
Understanding How UCF Will Probably Recruit from the Class of 2023 Forward
The blending of two different types of recruiting strategy coming together. That’s what UCF fans are going to see with their Knights going forward. While there will certainly be plenty of developmental players still coming into the program, the number of impact recruits will likely spike.
Now that the UCF coaching staff has established a relationship with underclassmen, it’s easier to relate to those men and eventually sign them to a letter of intent to play for the Knights. There was very little time to build relationships with 2022 recruits and it quite frankly cost the Knights with several key recruits across Florida. Each passing year, that issue will relinquish a little bit more.
Finding the Right Blend of Recruits for UCF
With the 2022 recruits, it’s an example of how the Knights continue to head towards signing more high profile prospects than ever before. Even with a greater number of highly regarded prospects coming to Orlando, it’s probable that the Knights still bring in a few developmental prospects.
Offensive tackle Miguel Maldonado from Lakeland (Fla.) High School, and wide receiver Tyler Griffin from Brooklet (Ga.) Southeast Bulloch, represent the types of recruits that will likely be within the majority of Knights' recruiting classes. Both provide the physical skills of athletic basketball players, and they will now focus on football and provide elite upside. That’s also why transfers are important.
The final piece of the puzzle is the one that makes each UCF recruiting class extremely difficult to project: transfers. There’s no way to even pin down the number of high school scholarships that UCF will use each recruiting cycle with opportunities for transfers coming to Orlando. Transfers often happen later in the football season, or even after the season. That's why it's a guessing game, but still not as bad as waiting on numerous big-time high school recruits to make a decision.
This is one scenario where UCF has an advantage over programs like Alabama and Ohio State. The reason derives from many truly elite high school recruits waiting until national signing day to pick a college.
Those programs chasing elite recruits waiting until the last minute need to have scholarships ready and available. UCF may be after a few of them, but there’s a better chance to sign impact transfers for the Knights than loading up on SI 99 prospects.
By the conclusion of the 2023 recruiting cycle, the Knights will likely be transformed into a combination of developmental players, high profile high school recruits, and college transfers. It's part of the long-term vision of UCF Football.
For the next year or two, the Knights should be considered a developmental program, meaning taking highly skilled players like Maldonado and developing him with everything needed to bolster on field performance.
With a few more big-time recruits and a continuation of bringing in college transfers, the Knights will have a really talented football roster each year. It's a really unique formula, and one that should work for UCF. That's the bottom line.