While the Central Florida Knights prepare for their New Year’s Day Peach Bowl encounter with Auburn, Wednesday was a day to already look toward 2018 and beyond. The NCAA’s first-ever early signing day for football recruits brought mixed results for UCF.
Incoming head coach Josh Heupel (pronounced High-Pull) picked up 11 new recruits. Eight of those kept their commitment made to outgoing coach Scott Frost, while three were brought in by Heupel and his team following his recent hiring earlier this month.
So far, the biggest prize is four-star linebacker Eriq Gilyard from Trinity International in Jacksonville. The four-star linebacker, who verbally committed to UCF on October 22, returned his signed letter of intent just before 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Gilyard had offers from programs such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, LSU, Michigan and South Florida, but wound up choosing the Knights. He is the 52nd-ranked prospect in the state according to Rivals.com.
The recruiting class includes 5 offensive linemen, two defensive ends, two defensive backs, a linebacker, and a tight end. Among those are junior college teammates Josh McMullen (offensive line) and tight end Chris DeLoach from East Central Community College in Decautur, Miss.
Gilyard is the lone four-star recruit, while 6 are three-stars and four have two-star ratings. With the Knights graduating two starting offensive linemen, help up front was a priority.
“I think whenever you’re building a program the trenches are absolutely critical,” Heupel said. “You look at some of the great skill players that are currently on our roster and what they’re able to do and a lot of those kids are still coming back here next year or maybe two years.”
Recruiting for 2018 is not yet over. Four remaining players who committed to UCF did not sign on Wednesday and may still join the team during signing day in February.
UCF’s class so far ranks as Rivals’ 73rd best nationally among FBS schools. That number would improve by signing their four remaining committed players while also luring a few more three-stars to Orlando.
The Knights rank eighth among members of the American Athletic Conference. South Florida has the top recruiting class so far with the 45th best, followed by Cincinnati (48), Houston (51), Tulane (63), SMU (64), Temple (67), and Navy (72).
In the UCF “war room” Heupel and his small staff worked the phones to ensure the recruits were sending in their letters of intent. The atmosphere was described as getting “Heuped.”
“To all the players that are signed, sealed, and Knighted, let’s get Heuped and let’s have a lot of fun together.”
Even before the huge matchup in Atlanta, preparations for the 2018 season are already underway. .