UCF Football Recruiting Looking for Versatile Linebackers

Defending the edge is a difficult task in today’s college football world, and the UCF football program is bringing in several recruits that could fit that mold. Here’s a look at what defending the edge means from a linebacker perspective, with an emphasis on one particular UCF recruit.
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Every college program needs linebackers that can play in space. If not, teams will beat a defense with scheme, quickness, speed, and power. Ironically, it's exactly how UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn utilizes his power spread offense. Therefore, finding that mix of athleticism at linebacker combined with the coverage abilities of a safety is something the UCF football program must continuously recruit each year.

That’s why amongst the many talented linebackers that already unofficially visited UCF’s campus or are set to leave later today after completing their official visit, there’s a common theme amongst them.

Versatility.

This is especially true with the ‘edge’ defenders that are most likely to play linebacker and/or a hybrid linebacker-safety position once reaching the college level. Within today’s college football, there’s no reason to deny that offenses usually hold an advantage when they can place an elite wide receiver like UCF’s Jaylon Robinson within the slot. He’s a jitterbug in space and can run by defenders with his blazing speed. That next play is when things generally become even more interesting.

Here comes the 6’5” tight end with ball skills similar to a wide receiver, placed in the slot, and he’s capable of blocking a safety or linebacker onto his backside. That’s why the current era of college football has a new premium position -- the hybrid linebacker -- that every school needs to find, UCF included.

Amongst the many talented linebacker recruits that visited UCF this past weekend, the majority of them can literally play in space at the Hybrid position, or eventually move to a more traditional linebacker role and be a weak side linebacker after gaining a little bit of weight. This fact sheds some light on what UCF Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams wants to do with the Knights’ defensive front seven.

While it’s paramount that a defense be multiple in today’s college football world, it’s almost paramount that a linebacker possess skills to adjust on the fly. When a college offense shifts its 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) into a five-wide set, many college linebackers would be out of place outside the tackle box. With the list of linebackers that Coach Williams is bringing in for visits, it’s clear that he’s not going to lack athleticism on the edge of the defense. Here’s a prime example, Kam Moore.

The Sanford (Fla.) Seminole prospect is not the 6’4”, 235 pound thumper at linebacker that many fans might envision. Instead, Moore is a player that can run and hit in space, much like a safety, although he plays weak side linebacker for Seminole. Take a look at the following two clips from Moore’s junior season, one in which he shoots a gap for a tackle for loss, and another when he’s in coverage against a smaller slot wide receiver.

The above clip provides insight as to how fast Moore can move in space, although this play shows him beating the interior offensive line to hole, and Moore then brings down the running back in the backfield.

The second clip is what allows defenses to keep up with college offenses. A quick slot wide receiver against a linebacker is usually a mismatch. Moore did a great job of charging on the football and creating an incompletion.

These two plays display why it’s so important to find linebackers with speed and athleticism to play multiple roles no matter which type of player lines up in front of them. That’s today’s college football world, and UCF football is recruiting the types of athletes like Moore to adjust on the fly.

Moore is 6’1” and roughly 200 pounds. He possesses the type of athleticism that will allow him an opportunity to excel at multiple roles in the college football landscape. He’s certainly going to be utilized on special teams -- punts and kickoffs -- while playing college football as well.

His biggest asset, however, will be defending the edge. That means the speed to go and chase down a fast running back on a toss sweep, or cover that slot receiver like Robinson, and even battle with the 6’5” tight end during a screen.

Considering how difficult it is to build a depth chart with versatile linebackers like Moore, it’s no wonder that UCF is bringing in so many talented linebackers for visits, with at least five of those linebackers capable of playing well in space. 

For the full visit list this weekend, check out yesterday’s article with the full 33 unofficial and official visitors. Each of the linebackers that Coach Williams would like to sign is within that article.

The future of UCF’s defense is going to feature versatility and speed, and players like Moore provide the abilities UCF needs to keep up with modern college offenses. Look for more recruiting updates from Inside The Knights as more and more recruits leave the UCF campus.

You will find me on Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation