The 2017 UCF Football team is looking to finish strong under head coach Scott Frost. Meanwhile, the 2018 UCF Football team has begun to take shape under head coach Josh Heupel.
Thirteen players out of the high school and junior college officially signed on to be Knights during college football's first-ever early signing period, which began Wednesday and ended Friday at midnight. You can see the entire list of Black and Gold newcomers here. Twelve of the 13 signed Wednesday. Defensive end Randy Charlton, a Miami native, committed to Indiana University on Wednesday but then decommitted two days later in order to letter of intent with UCF.
Many of the signees were recruited by Frost and his staff. Heupel and his still-growing staff wasted no time in making sure each player's interest in UCF didn't leave along with those coaches.
"The current commits, a lot of those kids, we were able to reach out, Coach (Randy) Shannon and myself, the first day that we were hired and the announcement took place," Heupel said when he met with the media Wednesday. "Stayed up here early into the morning, made sure we tried to get in touch with every single one of them. Then you have to develop a real relationship in 10 days and give them what your vision of the program is and where they fit in moving forward. All those things have to happen really quickly with the early signing period."
This early class is full of linemen -- five on offense, four on defense. "You can't have enough big bodies inside of your program," Heupel said.
Two of those big bodies, Josh McMullen and Trevor Elbert, came from the junior college ranks and were new additions to this early class thanks to Heupel. Both men also play offensive tackle, which Heupel saw as an area of need for UCF.
"You look at some of the great skill players that are currently here on our roster and what they were able to do, a lot of those kids are still coming back for the next year or for maybe two years," he said. "But certainly up front, I think you've got to continue to get bigger and stronger and more athletic up front."
As you might imagine, the confirmed addition of those five offensive linemen sure made new O-line coach Glen Elarbee happy:
All but one of the early signees was given a two-star or three-star rating by Rivals. The lone outsider is four-star linebacker Eriq Gilyard from Jacksonville. Heupel said that while he thinks the star rating system is "awesome" for how it has raised the fans' engagement in college football, he doesn't pay much attention to it. He's more interested in finding players who are compatible with what the Knights will do on each side of the ball.
"If you recruit great players but they don't fit what you do, it's not going to be a good marriage when you get out there on the grass," he said. "The kid is never going to become what he's capable of and you're always going to be frustrated."
To wit, Adrian Killins and McKenzie Milton were three-star recruits for Frost and are now stars in their own right on the FBS' most prolific offense and lone unbeaten team. Shaquem Griffin also received three stars. Tre Neal was a two-star player. And then there is this nugget from UCFSports' Brandon Helwig from earlier this week:
Just something to think about on the eve of the early signing day. A.J. Bouye was a two-star recruit. UCF was His ONLY offer when he committed in November of his senior year. Today he's one of the NFL's best CBs, signing a $67.5M contract with Jacksonville last offseason.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) December 20, 2017
Heupel said he has recently spent quite a bit of time off the field with Milton and took a little bit of time away from recruiting to watch him and his teammates practice Wednesday.
"He oozes confidence," the new head coach said of Milton, whom Heupel referred to, again, as a championship-caliber quarterback. He said the same during his Dec. 5 introductory press conference.
But time off isn't really a part of Heupel's life right now. He has spent the past two-plus weeks recruiting and will continue to do so through January prior to the regular National Signing Day on Feb. 7. Outside of that, he has been getting to know the Knights who are already here and is continuing to fill out his coaching staff.
"My wife no longer knows who I am," Heupel joked when asked about how busy he has been. He and his family plan to go shopping for houses in Orlando this weekend.
Thirteen Knights confirmed this week that UCF will be their home for their college careers. This is only the beginning, of course. Plenty of spots remain open for UCF Football to fill out its 2018 recruiting class. Yes, Heupel still has a lot of work in front of him. As he exited Wednesday's press conference, he shouted back to anyone within earshot: "I'm gonna go recruit."