It will be the first time in Bright House Networks Stadium today for many high school prospects and UCF is hoping a red-carpet treatment and a crazy college football atmosphere will make a lasting impression.
The Bright House is sold out for Saturday’s noon kickoff with SEC power South Carolina and the undefeated Knights are looking to make a statement, not only on the field, but also in the minds of the young recruits in attendance.
One who might stand to be the most impressed is Winter Haven offensive tackle Mike Arnold, a rising star who has only gotten his feet wet on the college recruiting circuit and his stock is rising. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound junior has a scholarship offer from the Knights, as well as from Miami, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest.
He holds Miami, NC State and UCF highest among his offers, but it’s early for Arnold and he will just be on a fact-finding adventure this weekend.
“I should be there tomorrow. I expect to see a good game and South Carolina is a good team and I think UCF is 3-0 and they are playing well right now,” Arnold said. “I know the crowd should be pretty good.”
He said a UCF upset over the Gamecocks could go a long way in making an impression, but UCF might have its work cut out in securing the services of the big fella as schools will likely be piling on in the future.
Another high school prospect UCF would like to see lean a little more favorably toward the Knights is Eustis senior linebacker Jaylon Graham, whom UCF has penciled in as a defensive end should he pick the Knights. Graham has been getting some time with his hand on the ground as Eustis head coach Mike Hay moves the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder around in his defensive scheme.
He likes the Knights, but he’s still considering all of his options.
“I’m very interested. They’ve been showing me a lot of love and that they care about me a lot as a player and they’ve said they’re excited about me possibly coming there,” Graham said. “I’m excited about being in the atmosphere to see how it is and I’ll get to talk to the coaches and stuff before the game, so it should be pretty good.”
Graham, the No. 19-ranked player in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60, also has offers from Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky, Memphis, Marshall, FAU and Indiana.
He hasn’t narrowed his choices down and still has not scheduled any of his official visits.
“At this point I’m just still trying to see where I belong. I don’t have any favorites,” Graham said. “I’m just going to see how it is. I want to learn more about [UCF].
“I’ve been there. I was there when they first offered me, but it will be my first time at a UCF game so I won’t mind finding out more and meeting new people and stuff.”
He knows it should be a wild atmosphere and he was told to make sure and get his ticket request in early when UCF reached out to recruits about attending the game earlier this month.
“I know it’s going to be a packed game,” Graham said. “Coach [Mark] Cammack, the director of player personnel, e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago to tell me the tickets were going to go fast. I’m excited to be able to be there and ready to see how it is.”
Graham will bring his two uncles with him as each recruit is allowed to bring two guests
There has also been talk that several high school players who are committed to other schools or players who are not necessarily interested in coming to UCF, were trying to gain access to the game as UCF recruits. Word is that the Knights coaching staff was likely going to be a little more selective in its ticketing process for this game
Apopka offensive lineman Martez Ivey, one of the top players in the state for the 2015 class, was considering attending and said he was certainly interested in seeing South Carolina, one of the teams that has offered the 6-foot-6, 277-pound tackle.
“I’m not sure if I will be there or not,” Ivey said Thursday night. “I was trying but I’m not really sure, but if they got a ticket for me, I’ll definitely be there.”
He has offers from 15 schools with Florida, Alabama, Miami, Nebraska and the Gamecocks at the top of his list, although he said he doesn’t have any favorites at this point.
Several recruiting analysts have noted Ivey as being a Florida Gators leaner, but Ivey says not so fast.
“No, not at all. I’m not even sure yet,” he said. “I’ll go back up there again though.”
UCF-South Carolina game note: We’ll be checking out who actually shows up on Saturday, so check back at orlandosentinel.com/recruiting or follow our Twitter feed at os_recruiting before and after kickoff.
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, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.