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Early Signing Day: Three Key Takeaways

Gus Malzahn firmly places his stamp on the program

Photo: Derek Warden

The UCF Knights signed 15 new players on the early signing day on Wednesday, and here are the three most important takeaways from the Knights’ 2022 class:

1. Gus gets his QB

Thomas Castellanos is coming to town:

The 6-foot-tall, 190-pound dual-threat QB from Ware County High School in southeast Georgia (halfway between Brunswick and Valdosta) was one of Gus’ earliest targets.

Though a bit on the small side, he exhibits all of the traits that work in the Malzahn offense: He’s as quick in his mind as he is on his feet, but keeps his eyes downfield for big plays.

Case in point: He threw for 2,500 yards and ran for almost 1,000 more as a senior.

Malzahn will likely bring in an experienced QB via the transfer portal to fill in for 2022 after the departure of Dillon Gabriel, but make no mistake: Castellanos is The Guy.

2. Skill positions lead the way

UCF also surrounded Castellanos with a cast of talented skill position players, namely three WRs, a back and a tight end.

In the backfield, Malzahn flipped Jordan McDonald, who, on top of having great fashion sense, is a 6-1, 220-pound problem:

On the outside, the Knights scored three receivers, including 6-5 Tyler Griffin:

In addition, Quan Lee from Gainesville and all-purpose player Xavier Townsend (who UCF lists as a wideout) also join the fray, as well as 6-4 tight end Stevens Grant.

Only two offensive linemen were part of the haul: 6-7 290-pound Tylan Grable and 6-3, 295-pound Caden Kitler.

3. The defense just re-loaded

Travis Williams’ philosophy just came into full focus: Rush the passer up front, and be athletic in the back seven. Consider: UCF puled in two defensive ends who are both 6-2 or taller, two linebackers and three defensive backs, including twin brothers Demari and Ja’cari Henderson from Seminole High School.

Final takeaways

Of the 15 players UCF signed on Wednesday, 10 were from Florida, with a further four from Georgia.

While there are still holes to fill, which first full signing period under Gus Malzahn has been termed a success not just based on the players who came in, but also by the stamp that Gus Malzahn placed on the program.