You'll have to excuse the UCF football coaches if they get a little paranoid this time of year, but it always seems to come down to the same scenario: The Knights are cruising into National Signing Day feeling good about what they have accomplished over the course of the current recruiting period and then here come the leeches.
These particular bottom-feeders are the college programs that suck the life out of UCF's commitment list on the final days approaching signing day. For whatever the reason, perhaps a school has lost a player at the last minute and needs a quick fix, or perhaps they find a player they have overlooked, but UCF takes offense, for sure.
There are plenty of stories and anecdotes to go along with these incidents of alleged pilfering over the years.
Take last year, for quick reference. Phenix City, Ala., quarterback Jonathan Wallace committed to UCF on Jan 15. The Knights went through their due diligence in trying to keep up with the three-star prospect, but on signing day, Auburn stole him away and the Knights were left empty-handed, even offering former Deltona Trinity Christian QB Paxton Lynch just prior to Lynch signing with Memphis on the morning of signing day.
Rewind to Jan. 15 again, and there was another Alabama prepster committing to UCF the same day as Wallace. Sixteen days later, Trussville Hewitt High tight end John Youngblood spurned UCF for Ole Miss.
Back to the future and UCF fans are bracing themselves once again. In 15 days, signing day will be upon us and the Knights' coaches are doing whatever they can to make sure the ghosts of signing days past are not rearing their ghouly heads once again.
It's easy to point fingers and say there is poaching or a deliberate attempt to go after UCF recruits, but the case-by-case scenario would certainly need to be examined before that sort of allegation could be deemed relevant. At face value, however, it would certainly be enough to give any coaching staff a complex.
UCF recruits are being targeted again and the Knights coaches are, again, scrambling to make sure there aren't any last-minute casualties. The Knights landed a commitment from Alabama in Prichard Blount High offensive lineman Wilson Bell on Nov. 27. Then came the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Bell was blowing up the opposition. His work impressed fellow Alabama team member Austin Golson so much that the Florida State commit told his future Seminoles coaches they needed to check him out. They listened.
FSU was all over Bell last week, and once the 'Noles offered, others followed suit. On his way to his official FSU visit to Tallahassee on Friday, Bell was offered by Texas Tech and Ole Miss. On Monday, Bell was offered by Auburn.
Prior to committing to UCF, he had one other FBS offer from Western Kentucky. Now his phone is ringing. Bell said the schools coming at him last week told him they didn't even realize he was committed to UCF.
“It's getting kind of stressful,” he said Monday. “At some point you have to kind of start telling coaches you're not interested because you have better opportunities. You can't talk to everybody. I have to start narrowing it down to a top five or so and that's the stage I am at right now.”
UCF just hopes to make it to the final stage. Meanwhile, the Knights are also trying to make sure their other 15 commitments are still in order. Kentucky coaches came to Jacksonville last week to talk to UCF pledge Seyvon Lowry of First Coast High. Lowry told them he was not interested, but that didn't stop UCF head coach George O'Leary from making a quick trip J'ville to make sure. You have to do whatever it takes to protect your future investment.
“The way I see it is that they [UCF coaches] kind of feel like they are under the fire right now because I have gotten these offers,” Bell said. “It's kind of crunch time right now. To me I feel like they kinda think I'm going to decommit, so they're just worried.”
And they should be. The past does not lie.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun