It’s somewhat fitting that four members of UCF’s 2014 recruiting class are playing in the little-known Offense-Defense All-American Bowl this year.
Most players recruited to UCF aren’t exactly found on a list of America’s most wanted college football prospects.
No matter the alleged potential, or lack thereof for every UCF prospect, however, the Knights always seem to make great football players out of they athletes they find. The coaching staff unearths unknown players from places like the Wyatt Miller-family blueberry farm in Douglas County, Ga.
Miller is one of those four UCF commitments playing in the Offense-Defense bowl, which is in its eighth year, but being played in Orlando for the first time. The senior bowl game is at 5 p.m. Friday at the Citrus Bowl. It is in conjunction with several other events and games this week. (For info go to odbowl.com)
Miller joins fellow offensive linemen Luke Palmer of Wauchula, Chavis Dickey of Fort Valley, Ga., and athlete Mike Rogers of Smyrna, Ga., in the senior bowl event.
“They just give kids a chance who some people think might not be up to that level yet,” said Miller, who had only four other offers from Appalachian State, Marshall, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. “They find kids who develop into what they want them to be.”
UCF currently has several players on its current roster who didn’t even have a college football scholarship offer coming out of high school. When running back William Stanback committed to UCF out of Hempstead, N.Y., last year, the response from most people was, “Who?”
They know who he is now. Stanback is UCF’s second leading rusher as a true freshman and played key roles in several close UCF victories.
You can go down the UCF roster and it’s littered with players who had no interest for much of their college recruiting process. The biggest example is probably quarterback Blake Bortles. No one wanted Bortles as a quarterback. He was recruited as a tight end, but UCF took a chance on him and now he’s one step away from being selected in the NFL Draft.
The Knights top two receivers who also had no interest. J.J. Worton was a preferred walk-on. The Knights didn’t even offer him a scholarship, but they did invite him to be part of the program. He made first-team All-AAC this year. Breshad Perriman had zero Football Bowl Subdivision offers, but now he’s a star and UCF’s second-leading receiver.
UCF coaches find players, develop them and put them in a situation to be successful. Starting center Joey Grant from Lake Brantley had zero FBS offers until UCF came aboard. He entered college as a defensive end, moved to defensive tackle and now anchors the O-line. Not only do the Knights coaches find them, and develop them, they find the right place for them to fit into the scheme.
Obviously it’s a successful recipe. Going 11-1 and playing Baylor in tonight’s Fiesta Bowl is an even more impressive feat when considering all of the under-recruited players UCF will put on the field.
“I think the key to recruiting is to take kids that fit into the culture of your program,” UCF coach George O’Leary said Tuesday at the Fiesta Bowl pregame press conference. “Chemistry-wise it’s so important on the football field as far as the program is concerned.”
And UCF coaches do their homework. Don’t ask any UCF coaches about star ratings. They won’t know the answer, and won’t care. That’s how it should be.
“I spend a lot of time grading recruits. The key thing is height, weight, speed, the things that you have to have. I think the key, it’s not what they’ve done in high school that’s important. … the NFL is full of three stars and two stars because it’s what they’ve accomplished in college that’s important, how quick they can take ’coach me’ attitude on as far as getting things done. That’s how we’ve looked at it.”
They’ve done it well.
While most schools are lauded for their star classes, UCF works along at its own pace. There aren’t many Big Dippers in the UCF constellation, but the overall Knights’ galaxy is pretty amazing.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.