Orlando, Fla. – UCF officially begun to restock its roster on Wednesday, signing 17 players to don the black and gold for the 2014 season.
Among them include a potential replacement for Blake Bortles in Tyler Harris and Errol Clarke, a highly touted inside linebacker making the transfer from community college to D1 football. Of the 17, 7 are products of the Sunshine State, 9 hail from Georgia, and the last is making the move all the way from New York.
Tyler Harris is the lone quarterback brought onto the roster on signing day, and will compete with Justin Holman for the starting position. Holman is the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience at all, completing 9 of 14 passes with a TD and an interception in 3 appearances. Harris is ranked by ESPN as a four star recruit and as the No. 12 pocket passer in the country after passing for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.
The pure physical traits of this years’ signing class have created a new excitement in the aftermath of the program’s most successful season to date, even with normally level-headed Coach O’Leary.
“I really think, looking throughout the years as this is concerned, from a height-weight-speed factor, I think this I probably the top class,” O’Leary said.
Indeed, the Knights have bulked up on defense this year, particularly with their defensive backs. All 4 of the DBs signed stand at least 6 feet tall and weigh 180 lbs, while both Tre Neal and Chris Williams measure in at 6 feet 2 inches.
Kyle Gibson stands out amongst his peers as ESPN’s No. 10 safety and Rivals’ No. 16 cornerback. The defender out of Tampa had 24 takeaways in his last 3 high school seasons, 12 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. Half of those picks came in his senior year, leading up to what promises to be an interesting rookie season.
It is not just pure football ability that the UCF staff places a heavy emphasis on. O’Leary repeatedly made it clear that he does not recruit off of rankings, but film, interviews, character and almost most importantly, academics.
“The game has changed. You gotta be able to talk to a kid on the sideline and not draw all the time on a chalkboard,” O’Leary said, continuing to clarify that “You want kids you can coach on the move. The coaches know, I’ll always check academics.”
With the high-profile signings out of the way, UCF must wait for summer school to see their new Knights with the rest of the team. O’Leary said that when it was all said and done, there could be 6-7 of these freshmen who will actually see the field.
The question now of course, is who will earn it?