UCF Notches One of Its Best Classes
The Knights' 11 wins, Conference USA championship, Liberty Bowl win over Georgia and No. 21 ranking were enough to attract what coach George O'Leary claims is the best class in his seven seasons as the head of the program.
"I think the athleticism and the balance (make this our best class)," O'Leary said. "I think we helped out a lot of positions as far as bringing in quality players at all the positions, and I think that's what you really need to be doing."
The Knights signed 29 players, including three four-star recruits who all signed after the Feb. 2 signing date. Included among those four-star recruits were linebacker Leilon Willingham and receiver Rayshon Williams, who go to Mullen High School in Denver. Both players signed their letters of intent on Feb. 3 because a snowstorm in Denver forced Mullen to cancel classes on Feb. 2. Williams is the cousin of former UCF standout and current Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall is also Williams' legal guardian.
Four-star quarterback DeMarcus Smith from Louisville's Seneca High School also signed with the Knights on Feb. 4.
UCF also managed to switch the commitments of safeties Jared Henry (First Coast H.S., Jacksonville, Fla.) and Jeremy Davis (Milford Academy, New Berlin, N.Y.), who were committed to South Carolina and Miami.
"We just hit it right with some of the kids that made commitments elsewhere," O'Leary said. "The point of recruiting is to find a place where you feel more comfortable and I thought that's really what took place."
After concentrating on offense in the 2010 class, O'Leary and his staff felt like the defense was a place the Knights could use some depth. Of the 29 players signed this year, 21 are on the defensive side of the ball and 15 of those signees are in the front seven.
UCF has prided itself on its defense, especially the past few years. The Knights have had the conference's defensive player of the year each of the past two seasons and last year the Knights ranked eighth nationally in both scoring and rushing defense and 15th in total defense.
"Most of the help went to defense," O'Leary said. "We were shy players. We've played great defense. We've been No. 1 in the conference and No. 8, I think overall in the nation in rushing and scoring defense in the country. But I think we were always just a couple players shy of the midsized, semiskilled guys. We went after a bunch of defensive players in this class to get people in the depth where we need them."
While UCF bosted better stats and achievement than they ever have before, the main selling point for the program, according to O'Leary, is the campus, the on-campus stadium and the testimony of players who are currently in the program.
During every recruiting visit, after the coaches have done their spiel, O'Leary makes a group of players available to answer any remaining questions not only prospective student-athletes might have, but also their parents. O'Leary said this tactic is what sets UCF apart from several other schools it competes against.
"I think players who are in your program sell your program when they're on visits and I think that's what transpired this past year," O'Leary said.
"I think we've always had a panel of players that speak without coaches there and that's really a great selling point to the parents because they can ask them any questions they want and you like some of the answers, you don't like some of the answers, but I've always gotten a great report from the parents regarding that. That the kids were very upfront and honest about what takes place because after awhile, all the coaches in college sound the same. But once we get them on campus and they hear what really goes on here, from the players, that's usually all it takes."