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UCF 2017 Recruiting Class: Initial National Signing Day Reactions

The Knights’ class has wrapped up by the late morning and ought to be one of the three best in the AAC.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2/2/17 Update: And now we’ve got to change the way we look at this class. And that’s awesome. The UCF Knights have flipped four star recruit Cordarrian Richardson from Maryland. He’s the eighth best running back in the country. Here’s what this means:

  • The Knights now have the highest-ranked player to sign with a Group of Five school.
  • The Knights now have signed a four star player for at least three classes in a row.
  • The Knights now have the 54th best recruiting class this year. This makes them the best G5 class.
  • The Knights now have their best-regarded recruiting class in school history.
  • This class is now another Scott Frost recruiting triumph.

So by all means, keep reading our initial reactions below. But the final analysis of what it all means now changes for the better.

UCF appears to have wrapped up its signing class by late morning. Scott Frost and the Knights have signed a class of 21 recruits. As of this writing, Rivals puts the Knights’ class ranking at 60th overall and 3rd in the AAC behind Memphis and Cincinnati, both of which have larger classes than the Knights.[1] It seems likely the Knights will end up with the third best class in the conference, mostly consistent with our observations pre-National Signing Day.

All of the Knights are either two or three star recruits. This breaks with the recent pattern of UCF signing a four star player or two each year. From 2014 to 2016, the Knights signed at least one four star player. In 2014, it was Kyle Gibson. In 2015, Tristan Payton. And in his first recruiting class last year, Frost brought in Dredrick Snelson and Aaron Dowdell.

Not that this should make UCF fans particularly gloomy. Of course, recruiting ratings are as a general matter a bit imprecise. Under George O’Leary’s tenure, the Knights had a lot of players with not a lot of stars blossom. No UCF fan can ever forget that Blake Bortles as one of the prime examples. And of course we could name a bunch more – Kemal Ishmael (two stars), Pro Bowler Josh Sitton (two stars), A.J. Bouye (two stars) . . . feels like we could do this all day. And if we want to talk current players, AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin had a modest three stars. It is early to judge Frost’s eye for the two or three star talent, but undoubtedly three star freshman McKenzie Milton, Jawon Hamilton, and Adrian Killins were important for UCF this year.

So that’s what we can view as the overall context. But now this year’s class.

Much of the drama came before signing day with some late de-commitments. JUCO DT Jamari Chisholm (two stars) committed to Texas when the Longhorns offered late last night. Unfortunate, and indicative of the present Power Five-AAC dynamic. After being pledged to the Knights for six months, QB Marvin Washington (two stars) decommitted two weeks ago to re-open his recruitment is headed to UConn. UConn! It’s annoying but understandable as Washington was unhappy about two other quarterbacks being taken in the class.

The Knights did have a bit of a late and positive surprise in pulling in Marlon Williams (three stars), a wide receiver who at one point was committed to USC. He pledged to UCF last night and sent his letter of intent a bit on the later end this morning, choosing the Knights over Georgia Tech. Most of the day’s signed letters of intent were in by 9 AM for UCF.

As a broad observation, it’s great to see this staff continue to have success recruiting Florida. The Knights have now added 15 in-state players. Too often it felt that the O’Leary staff failed to pull in players from in-state and seemed not to be looking hard enough. But as he did last year, Frost has added a plethora of Florida players, including from talent-rich South Florida.

Quarterback was a position of need now that Justin Holman is gone and Tyler Harris and Garrett Kruczek have transferred. That of course made the Marvin Washington decommitment a bit disconcerting. Frost had wanted “at least” two quarterbacks in this class and, well, he did end up with two: Darriel Mack Jr. (three stars) and Noah Vedral (two stars). Frost has said it’s realistic to expect a freshman to be involved in the quarterback competition, and it would seem that Mack – a dual-threat kind of guy – would be the most likely.

The offensive line was a weakness last season and needed an infusion of talent. The Knights brought in three linemen in Cole Schneider (6’4”, 300 pounds, two stars), Samuel Jackson (6’6”, 310 pounds, three stars, great name), and Julio Castillo (6’6”, 315 pounds, two stars). That’s some notable size – though not a “hard” average, it’s fair to think that the average offensive lineman is about 6’ 3” and 302 pounds. Schneider’s commitment is a bit noteworthy in that he resisted late runs by Purdue and Michigan State.

The Knights have three recruits from the 2017 class already enrolled. CB Antwan Collier (three stars), WR Emmanuel Greene (three stars), and RB Otis Anderson (three stars) are on-campus and will practice in the Spring.

On the whole, it seems like a very satisfactory second class for Scott Frost. Needs were addressed, though perhaps not as thoroughly in some areas as would be ideal. It’s not the “triumph” I described last year’s class as, but my enthusiasm in that regard was triggered by Frost’s performance given the compressed winless season, the compressed timeframe following his hire, and the sluggish recruiting by O’Leary’s staff. Knights fans should come away from signing day pleased this year. After all, it’s hard to complain when you wind up with one of the three best recruiting classes in the conference.

[1] I admit my biases here: I have tended to have more faith in the ratings by Rivals and so use those throughout this post. But – again as of this writing -- 247Sports has the Knights also at 60th overall but 2nd in the AAC. The difference in conference ranking is likely affected by the fact that 247Sports counts August 2016 enrollee Anthony Roberson in the 2017 class, while Rivals does not.