Big XII Membership, Changing the Geographical Footprint of UCF Football Recruiting

With membership into the Big XII, UCF Football can now expand its recruiting opportunities.
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ORLANDO - UCF already possesses an enormous recruiting advantage by being located in Orlando, located in Florida, statistically the most fertile high school football state in the country. 37 Floridians were drafted into the NFL this past April.

Nikai Martinez, Apopka

Current UCF commitment Nikai Martinez hails from Apopka, Fla., and the Knights will continue to recruit players like Martinez from the surrounding Orlando area.

With Big XII membership, the Knights should be able to add a few more elite players because of the cities and states the Knights will now be playing games in. It only takes one additional player to change a roster, so the Big XII will be truly helping UCF Football.

When college coaches take their teams on the road to play, they often scout that particular area’s high school talent during the Friday night beforehand. Now that UCF will be playing in the Big XII, a league that spans from West Virginia to Utah, there will be some unique scouting opportunities for the UCF coaching staff.

While Florida is and always will be the most important recruiting state for the Knights, finding just a few more gems along the recruiting trail will be welcomed with open arms from UCF Head Coach Gus Malzahn and his coaching staff.

Texas Will be the Starting Point

After producing 33 NFL Draft picks in April of 2021, Texas high school football was second to only Florida for overall volume of draft picks. Combining the recruiting efforts in Texas and Florida, yes, that’s quite an attractive option.

UCF starting wide receivers Jaylon Robinson and Ryan O’Keefe both played high school football in talent-rich Texas. So did cornerback Mark Domio, hybrid linebacker-safety Duvunte Dawson, wide receiver Jaylon Griffin, and wide receiver Ke’von Ahmad.

So there’s already some recent history with UCF recruiting the Lone Star State. With the Knights soon to be playing Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and Houston, the opportunity to recruit the state of Texas will grow year by year.

This will not be a situation of UCF needing numbers; the Knights will want to sign quality and players at positions of need for any given recruiting class. Having Texas as an option beyond the normal Southeast recruiting region will be a great complementary recruiting territory to what UCF already possesses closer to Orlando.

Ohio Recruiting, and Possibly Pennsylvania?

Playing Big XII members Cincinnati and West Virginia means the opportunity to recruit Ohio, and possibly the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, both of which produce high levels of talent.

During the 2019 NFL season, 85 former Ohio high school football players played for an NFL team. Pennsylvania produced 61 NFL players during the 2019 season. - MaxPreps

The state of Ohio has long since produced a plethora of big-time high school football prospects. Now that UCF will be joining the Big XII, many of those Buckeye State prospects, as well as possibly some players from nearby Pennsylvania, will be more likely to look at UCF.

UCF Running Back Isaiah Bowser played his high school football in Sydney, Ohio.

UCF Running Back Isaiah Bowser played his high school football in Sydney, Ohio.

Again, the UCF coaching staff will be adding a prospect or two from this area per year. It’s not a major recruiting shift. It’s an ancillary option for what UCF already possesses with talent-laden Florida at its doorstep.

National Scope

The other aspect of UCF recruiting that will change will come by way of media and nationally televised football games. More eyeballs will be on the UCF Football program than ever before.

Even a player that lives in California will soon be seeing UCF’s games because of more widespread television coverage. That matters because recruits are known to follow schools because of exposure -- like Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State -- and even make initial contact with schools about being recruited by them.

In time, the UCF Football office phones will ring with players from around the country calling UCF as much as UCF will call them. Perception matters. Recruits will like the opportunities that UCF provides as a Power Five program.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous details to unveil in the coming months. UCF Football needs to continue to recruit Florida, Georgia and Alabama hard, while beginning to look at future recruiting options within states like Texas and Ohio.

The landscape for UCF recruiting will not drastically change, but adding a few more prospects from across the country will bolster the Knights’ roster.

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