The first Wednesday in February was previously the crescendo to a year’s worth of recruiting in college football.
Now with the sport’s early signing period in December stealing much of the show, this day’s action is more mezzo piano than fortissimo.
The UCF Knights officially announced the addition of a handful of players to their 2020 signing class Wednesday, complementing the 17 players who signed with UCF during the early signing period.
This group is highlighted by quarterback Parker Navarro, a 6-foot, 195-pound athlete from Phoenix.
Heupel describes the process of bringing Navarro to #UCF, from first seeing his highlight tape in December to recruiting him with co-OC Alex Golesh and QBs coach Joey Halzle for most of January. pic.twitter.com/oaQdu9DDTi— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) February 5, 2020
Another big get for the Knights is 6-foot-5 tight end Zach Marsh-Wojan. His size is eye-popping on film, and, as a former wideout, head coach Josh Heupel hopes the JUCO transfer can be a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers and safeties.
“He has the ability to do multiple things — play out in space, play in the box. Use him in the run game, but also use him as a pass receiver and a weapon there,” Heupel said.
Other high schoolers who became Knights on Wednesday include tight end Garrett French; tight end Max Holler, whose brother, Alec, has spent two years on UCF’s roster; Dr. Phillips kicker Riley Stephens; and Bishop Moore wide receiver Stephen Martin. They are all preferred walk-ons.
Heupel could also talk about two other transfers for the first time — highly rated JUCO cornerback Emmanuel Appiah-Takyi and former Tennessee offensive tackle Marcus Tatum.
Heupel said he wants Tatum, a grad transfer, to “come in and compete and go earn the job” at right tackle as the Knights need to replace Jake Brown.
The Knights are returning four likely starters with significant playing experience along that O-line and signed three new linemen in December.
“I feel really confident about the depth of our offensive line,” Heupel added.
Heupel on Appiah-Takyi:
“Great speed. Ability to go attack the football and make plays. He’s got hands like a wide receiver and extremely confident. You look at just how he plays, play in and play out — I think in part because of his recovery speed — he sees something, he pulls the trigger, and he’s aggressive out there in nature.”
When Appiah-Takyi’s inclusion was announced last month, it made me think immediately about cornerback Brandon Moore, who is about five months removed from suffering a major knee injury. Perhaps, I thought, Appiah was brought in as almost like an insurance policy in case Moore can’t fully recover from his torn ACL.
But Heupel provided a positive update on Moore today:
This was also the first time we could ask about Quadry Jones, the once-former Knights quarterback who transferred to Alabama State in late December, only to return to UCF a couple of weeks ago. Yes, he is indeed back on the team’s roster.
Heupel confirmed that QB Quadry Jones is back on #UCF's roster and talked about what brought him back into the Knights' locker room after a short stint at Alabama State.— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) February 5, 2020
"He felt like this was home, this is the best place for him." pic.twitter.com/qcwkxgYaqy
Heupel was also asked about McKenzie Milton’s continuing recovery. Milton announced last week that he has been cleared to start wearing a more flexible, sport-specific knee brace.
But this presser was about much more than #UCF's 2020 class. Heupel was asked about the progress that McKenzie Milton has made in his recovery.— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) February 5, 2020
"I don't think any of us can appreciate how far he actually has come and the mental toughness it takes." pic.twitter.com/9GL1NmLIkG
Lastly among the notable takeaways, Heupel covered the changes to his coaching staff that came about in early January. Namely, the promotion of Joey Halzle to quarterbacks coach and hiring former Iowa State coach Alex Golesh to be a co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach.
Heupel on Halzle:
“Known Joey for a long time. A guy that played [for] me. He’s been with me 10 out of the last 12 years coaching. Does a phenomenal job with the quarterback position. He’s played the position; I think that’s an added benefit. He knows what it feels and what it looks like to be there in the pocket. As good as anybody I’ve ever been around, just fundamentally. I think he’s got an opportunity to help the guys in that room really develop and hone their skills fundamentally and put their bodies in the best position to be as successful as they can with each and every play, their eyes included. A guy that I trust. He’s a great relationship guy, had great relationships with the guys in the room this past year and will do a fantastic job. He’s a winner, too; I think that was extremely important. He’s going to go about his business the right way and compete the right way.”
Heupel on Golesh:
“A guy that fits the culture of our coaching staff. He’s a fierce competitor but does a great job of developing relationships with kids, mentoring them and teaching them life through the game of football and investing in them. A guy that doesn’t have a ton of travel in his tenure as a full-time coach and tries to invest inside of the program. Offensively ... there’s some things that he can add to what we’re doing that we’re excited about. But his makeup is as important as anything. Excited to have him in the room.”