State Colleges

With signing class locked in, UCF ready for more ‘championship-caliber football’

The UCF Knights celebrate defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-27 to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 1, 2018 in Atlanta.
The UCF Knights celebrate defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-27 to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 1, 2018 in Atlanta. Getty Images

Josh Heupel’s first signing class as UCF’s head coach is in the books.

Now the real work begins. Heupel, who takes over a program that is coming off an undefeated season, is shifting his focus from building up his class to making sure they’re ready to compete at the level they did last year.

“They understand that you can play championship-caliber football here year-in and year-out,” Heupel said. “People understand that this program is powerful. … Certainly our brand right now with happened this year is as hot as anywhere. It’s been a good opportunity for us to continue to go out and recruit great players because of it.”

Heading into the National Signing Day on Wednesday, Heupel had a simple approach to what players to go after while building his first recruiting class: Understand what you need.

Two needs stood out above the rest to the coach: offensive and defensive line. The Knights lost two of their top defensive linemen from last season in Jamivus Pittman and Tony Guerad as well as two starting offensive linemen in left tackle Aaron Evans and right guard Chavis Dickey.

When Wednesday came to a close, the focus on improving in the trenches was well noted.

Of UCF’s six signees Wednesday, two were defensive linemen in three-star prospects Tyrese Black out of McDonough, Georgia, and Landon Woodson from Fredericksburg, Virginia. A third was on the offensive line in three-star offensive guard Lamarius Benson, a 6-3, 321-pound lineman from Covington, Georgia. Of 19 overall signees — 13 pledged to the team during the early signing period in December — 11 were offensive or defensive linemen.

“We lost [players] on both sides of the ball that were difference makers,” Heupel said. “… It’s critical that you develop and recruit guys on both sides of the line of scrimmage that can help you long term.”

The other three to sign to UCF on Wednesday: American Heritage defensive back Dyllon Lester, Glades Central defensive back Trey Green and Collyville (Texas) wide receiver Ke’von Ahmad.

Around the state

▪ Lane Kiffin has added 10 more signees to Florida Atlantic’s 2018 class on Wednesday. They are: safety Armani Adams from St. Petersburg, Palm Beach Lakes three-star athlete Teja Young, defensive end Jaylen Joyner from Orlando, quarterback Cordel Littlejohn from Georgia, running back Malcolm Davidson from Kissimmee, three-star offensive tackle Doug Johnson from Fort White in northern Florida, guard Marquice Robinson from Alabama, junior college transfer center Zack Bennett from Arizona, junior college transfer defensive tackle Marcel Southall from Texas and Tulane transfer center Junior Diaz. The group joins the Owls’ five early signees for a 15-member class.

▪ South Florida, under second-year coach Charlie Strong, only added two signees on Wednesday after locking in 24 players during the early signing period in December. The new faces: three-star defensive tackle Tyrone Barber out of Venice, Florida, and three-star defensive tackle John Waller out of St. Petersburg.

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