UCF is looking to regain the momentum it established on the recruiting trail during the spring and summer.
The Knights have 11 commitments in the 2013 recruiting class, but are fresh off of receiving NCAA sanctions for alleged recruiting violations. UCF’s recruiting efforts also suffered a setback in mid-August when Tampa Bay Tech wide receiver Richard Benjamin, arguably UCF’s top commit, decommitted from the Knights.
Where does UCF’s class stand right now and can the Knights rebound going forward?
Below, four state recruiting analysts — the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays, ESPN’s Corey Long, Rivals’ Kynon Codrington and 247 Sports’ Chris Nee — break down UCF’s 2013 class so far and who the Knights will be targeting from now until National Signing Day in February.
What are your overall thoughts on UCF’s current recruiting class?
Hays: “Losing Benjamin was pretty big. I don’t think he kills their class because [Tarpon Springs East Lake quarterback] Pete DiNovo is still there. As long as they have DiNovo, I think they’re going to be happy with their class.
“I like [Bradenton Manatee defensive end/linebacker] Blake Keller. He’s a guy that a lot of people aren’t overwhelmed by, but he a solid kid and good player. . . . Benjamin probably put them a notch above what they are now. The rest of these guys are kind of no-name guys. UCF might like them, but it remains to be seen what they can accomplish at the next level. I’m not sure anyone knows what some of these guys can do. I do like DiNovo and his leadership. The two [Jacksonville] First Coast kids [defensive end Seyvon Lowry and cornerback D.J. Killings] should be good pick-ups.”
Long: “Overall, I really like what they’ve done with D-line. I think Blake Keller is a stud, I think Seyvon Lowry is a stud. . . . I think they’ve done a lot of good things at not sexy positions necessarily. They’ve done a lot on the line, the secondary. . . . The Benjamin loss hurts them a lot. It’s more of a perception thing. Richard Benjamin, he isn’t a world beater right now, he’s been very inconsistent and there’s a lot of things he needs to do to get better. He has tremendous upside. I was definitely wondering how [UCF head coach George] O’Leary would, well I’m not sure if they’re necessarily compatible in a lot of ways. But it’s hard to lose somebody with that sort of upside.”
Codrington: “They started slow, getting Benjamin was a nice pickup for them at the time, but you have to hang on to him. I think a lot of people saw that it was going to be hard for them and lot of people can look at that as a gift and a curse. He’s definitely a player that needs to figure out pretty quickly what the next level is all about.
“I like the Griffin twins [St. Pete Lakewood defensive backs Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin], they’re hard-nosed players and they’re a good fit for UCF. . . . Pete DiNovo had a great summer. He spins it pretty well and I think he’s a nice pickup for them. . . . They’ve done a good job. They have to close well. I know they have sanctions and losing David Kelly probably didn’t help because he was doing well down here in South Florida. I think they have to step it up. They don’t want to get passed over by USF and they’re behind USF now. They have to close well.”
Nee: “They’ve done a good job. They’ve got some guys early on. I feel like it’s a class that’s strong, but UCF has recruited up and down in recent years. . . . This class is trending towards being a more solid class. I love a guy like Micah Reed, he’s a running back from Crestview. He’s a kid that BCS-level conference schools, UCF is now in a BCS conference, they’re active with. They want to get him and he’s a guy that [UCF] is going to have to fight for until signs or is enrolled to keep on that roster. It not’s going to be an easy fight for UCF, but they’ve done their job.”
Of the current commits, who headlines the class?
Hays: “I think it’s got to be DiNovo. They’re probably going to work the class around him and Micah Reed, although I’m not sure how solid Reed is. “
Long: “It’s hard to say. It was Benjamin because he was such a vocal commitment. . . . It’s a class with good depth up top, but there’s not really that one guy that I can say is on top.
Codrington: “I would say Pete [DiNovo]. The way he looked this season, he did well [at the IMG 7-on-7] and his team won it. He’s one of those guys that kids kind of like. . . . He has some confidence about him and I think he can be the leader of the group.”
Nee: “If I had to pick one guy, I do love Micah. I do think he can be a very good contributor, but both of those quarterbacks add depth at a position that in the coming years, they’ll have some battles there.”
How will UCF wrap up its 2013 recruiting class?
Hays: “UCF needs a big time receiver. A Benjamin-caliber type of guy. There are players out there who may not be on the list for the others. That may not mean four- or five-star guys, but there are some good guys in the state. I don’t think a [Fort Lauderdale University School wide receiver Jordan] Cunningham, but guys below that should give UCF consideration, like, I don’t know if [New Smyrna Beach receiver] James Clark, first. Maybe a guy like Cunningham’s teammate, Dionte Taylor. Sean Avant from Miramar could be another one. I’m sure they’ll find someone, UCF always does. A diamond-in-the-rough guy. At this point, they’ll probably need one.”
Long: “Now they appear to be fading a little bit lately and that hurts. Last month, you could almost pencil in [Seffner Armwood receiver Alvin] Bailey in the class, you almost had two of the top offensive prospects in the state. And now you’re back at square one a little bit. I’m interested to see where they’ll go. I expect them to go after [Orlando Evans receiver’ Tony] Stevens, who is sort of wavering a little bit on FSU, maybe they could jump in and catch him. They’ve done a good job of pulling in an unexpected big name in their class and they have to do that again. They need some depth going into the Big East and some quality depth. They’ve done a good job with that, but they’re not there yet.”
Codrington: “[Plantation defensive back Sojourn] Shelton, that’d be a guy who you’d want on your team or in your class. He’s a high-character guy. Then [Orlando Boone running back] A.J. Turman, he would be ideal for them…they have to actively recruit some of those guys to buy into UCF.”
Nee: “I think it plays out fairly well. I think that staff has done a good job on identifying guys that they can get and entrenching themselves with those prospects, so I think you’ll see them down to the end regardless of on-field success. . . . I think the spot they kind of need to nail home is offensive line. I know they were very high on [Bartram Trail Fruit Cove offensive tackle] Tylar Regan, but he opted for NC State. They’re still looking for a couple of big-body kids.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun