The 2020 season may not have been everything UCF fans were hoping for, but that didn’t stop the team from making history this past weekend. For the first time ever, the Knights saw five players taken in the NFL Draft. That’s not only more players drafted this year than any other AAC team, but more than 72 percent of the Power Five.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
As UCF gears up to begin the Gus Malzahn Era this fall, recruiting has become a priority like never before. Florida has always been one of the most talent-rich hotbeds in the nation, but that hasn’t changed that the Knights have to compete with the old school “Big Three” of Florida, Florida State and Miami, as well as every other blueblood that raids the state, for talent.
UCF, of course, has been absurdly successful for years now by still recruiting at the top of the Group of Five and landing plenty of high quality three stars who could easily compete at the Power Five level, thanks to them being overlooked due to their size or simply because the state of Florida is just that deep.
But Malzahn wants to change that. Now, the Knights are going after the big fish. Four stars and five stars that previous coaches wouldn’t have even bothered placing a call to are suddenly priorities for this new staff. It’s really not as crazy of a pitch as some national fans might think.
UCF sits in Orlando, one of the great vacation destinations of the world. The school itself has a beautiful, vibrant campus home to the largest student body in the nation. The facilities and stadium are well above typical G5 level. The fan base is young and yet deeply invested. And, most importantly, the Knights win. A lot. Against everyone.
This was an upstart program that’s already been threatening the Big Three status quo for years now. All those teams had left to fall back on was the guys they put in the NFL. Sure, Miami may rarely be capable of more than seven or so wins and a Russell Athletic Bowl bid, but they’ll send you to the league! But this year, UCF had more players drafted.
Florida State has been down for a few years now, and can barely get a fanbase spoiled by decades of success out to games anymore, but just look at their illustrious draft history! Well this year, UCF had more players drafted.
But what about an out-of-state power? Why go to UCF when Auburn, Texas A&M, Nebraska or Tennessee will help you go pro? Because in 2021, UCF had more players drafted than any of them.
There’s no more argument for opposing coaches to make. There’s nothing left to fall back on. Malzahn and his staff have all the ammunition they need to start landing some of these big-time recruits. UCF has already found itself in Top 10 and Top 8 lists for multiple high level prospects, and that was before the draft.
The Knights are already one of the most talented and successful teams in the nation. The bluebloods don’t want to see what happens when some of the biggest names in recruiting each year start staying home.