Wednesday brought the first letters of intent of the Josh Heupel era, and he and his staff did well enough to keep the UCF Knights’ 2019 recruiting class at the top of the AAC.
Of the 22 players who have said they plan on donning black and gold next season, 17 of them signed on the dotted line on National Signing Day.
UCF’s slate of commits started coming in around 7 a.m., when three-star offensive lineman Matt Lee of Oviedo cemented the pledge he made over the summer. The Hagerty High School student was one of a dozen Florida recruits sending an LOI to UCF Wednesday.
The morning hours brought a dozen more LOIs, including wideout Justin Menard of Stockbridge, GA, inside linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste of Homestead, punter Alan Kervin of Tarpon Springs, strong defensive end Kam’ron Green of Bradenton and wide receiver Amari Johnson of Hallandale.
The eight o’clock hour also brought UCF its top commit of the class: Keenan Hester.
The St. Petersburgh High School defensive tackle announced his commitment to the Knights back in October, and stuck with it despite being targeted by a number of Power 5 programs, including Nebraska, where former UCF coach Scott Frost is finishing up his first season as the Huskers’ coach.
Hester wasn’t UCF’s only victory over Power 5 competition. Wide receiver Jarrad Baker chose UCF over Arizona State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kentucky and Missouri.
Notably, the Knights got to rub their on-the-field victory over Auburn with a handful of recruiting Ws against Gus Malzahn & Co.
The biggest get among them: Raymond Cutts. The Jones High School defensive end, who was also pursued by perennial playoff contender Clemson, rebuffed the chance to play SEC ball to play for his hometown uni. Linebacker Tatum Bethune of Miami and offensive tackle Adrian Medley of Pensacola also had Auburn offers in their back pocket.
Though Hester was the top commit according to scouts, the most talked about LOI was faxed in from Hawaii.
Three-star quarterback Dillon Gabriel was the Knights final recruit of the day and one of the most sought after. Gabriel, the Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year, attends the same high school as current UCF QB McKenzie Milton.
Gabriel, a top-40 pro-style prospect, had named UCF, Georgia and the University of Southern California as his top-3 schools heading into NSD. Ultimately, his decision came down to where he felt most at home — UCF was the answer, and it probably didn’t hurt to be on a FaceTime basis with Milton when it came time to sign.
— David McCracken (@dmccrackenhnn) December 20, 2018
With NSD part 1 in the books, composite rankings place UCF’s 2019 class atop the AAC and at No. 50 overall. That’s a marked improvement from last year, when the Knights finished with the No. 2 class in the conference behind Cincinnati and No. 62 overall.
The full list of Wednesday signees:
— Tatum Bethune, OLB
— Dallaz Corbitt, DE
— Raymond Cutts, DE
— Dillon Gabriel, QB
— Damarius Good, ATH
— Cam Goode, DT
— Tay Gowan, CB
— Kam’ron Green, DE
— Jordan Hayes, CB
— Keenan Hester, DT
— Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, ILB
— Amari Johnson, WR
— Alan Kervin, P
— Matt Lee, OT
— Aaron Medley, OT
— Justin Menard, CB
— Ryan O’Keefe, CB
— Jalen Pinkney, DE