Despite only having two weeks to prepare for the 2017-18 Early Signing Period last year, then-newly hired head coach Josh Heupel was excited to get to building the youth of his program.
“I’m really excited to announce what I think is a great start to the 2018 class,” Heupel stated in a press conference. “It’s kind of odd this year where you have multiple signing days, but I’m really excited about the kids that we were able to go out and sign to this great university.”
The UCF Knights announced 12 letters of intent were signed during the 2017-18 Early Signing Period, including two JUCO recruits of Heupel’s own in true junior offensive lineman Josh McMullen and redshirt junior offensive lineman Trevor Elbert. With more than two weeks to prepare for the ESP this time around, Heupel will put together his first full recruiting class for 2018-19.
As things stand, the UCF 2019 recruiting class has 20 hard commits, according to Knights 247. ESPN views two of the commits, Saint Petersburg (St. Petersburg H.S.) DT Keenan Hester and Orlando (Jones H.S.) DE Raymond Cutts, as 4 star prospects, and all other prospects as three stars. 247 considers the entire crop as 3-star prospects.
Despite no four-star commits based on the 247 Sports grading system, UCF’s 2019 class currently ranks as the best in the American Athletic Conference with a 0.8426 rating, which is nearly an entire composite point higher than their 4th-ranked (AAC) 0.8347 rating for the entire 2018 class. As things stand, UCF’s class ranks 52nd best in the nation, 18 spots higher than their final 70th ranked 2018 crop.
While these numbers could, and probably will, drop with late signings to fill out positions of need that may fly under the radar, the early returns on Heupel’s first full recruiting class look fantastic, especially at the top.
Let’s take a look at three of the major and several notable other expected ESP signings, as well as who to keep an eye on during the ESP and the 2019 National Signing Day.
(Psst, if you want to troll UCF haters, let them know that two of UCF’s top 3 commitments to date were flipped from Power 5 programs, just in the past month: Medley from Texas A&M (SEC) and Good from Miami (ACC)).
Keenan Hester, DT, 6-3, 267, St. Petersburg HS (St. Petersburg, FL)
Keenan Hester, who runs a verified 4.99 40 yard dash, is a speed-rushing defensive tackle/end from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Possessing solid frame and speed for his size, Hester recorded 56 total tackles, nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles during his 10-game senior season, according to Max Preps. He also received a small role in the St. Petersburg offense, playing left tackle and even rushing the ball eight times for 50 yards and two scores. Remind anyone of Trysten Hill?
Hester utilizes his athleticism as a two-sport athlete. As St. Petersburg’s starting center for the basketball team in 2017-18, Hester averaged a double-double with 13.8 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game in 19 games.
As previously mentioned, Hester is one of two UCF commits given a 4 star rating from ESPN. They rank Hester as the 60th best prospect in the state of Florida, and 48th best player at his position in the nation.
The defensive lineman has received a good amount of Power 5 interest, drawing offers from the likes of Georgia, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Boston College, and Pittsburgh, as well as AAC rival Cincinnati. Knights247.com contributor Jason Beede quoted Hester saying he chose UCF because “I love their program and how they have developed their players”.
Here are a couple of impressive clips from Hester’s highlight reel.
Adrian Medley, OL, 6-4, 305, Pensacola HS (Pensacola, FL)
Adrian Medley, who projects as a guard in college but played left tackle at Pensacola, possesses excellent frame at 6-4, 305 lbs as an incoming freshman. That frame put him on the radar of essentially every SEC school in the country, as if his film wasn’t good enough.
Medley, who has spent four years on varsity for the Pensacola High School football team, drew offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Clemson, and countless of other schools among the Power 5 and the AAC, committed to UCF on December 4th. In a Twitter post, Medley de-committed from Texas A&M and opted to stay in state with the Knights.
247 Sports has Medley at a 3 star rating, and considers him to be the 99th best prospect in the state of Florida, and the nation’s 59th best tackle prospect. His .8654 composite rating would rank him as the nation’s 46th best guard prospect should he make the transition.
Based on film, Medley is a nasty power blocker who moves well when pulling, which makes a potential move to guard very appealing. He consistently keeps his feet moving and drives defenders when he gains leverage.
Here’s some footage of Medley during his junior season, as he hasn’t uploaded his senior film just yet. I guess you could say Adrian Medley prefers UNDEFEATED National Champions to the phony-bologna “College Football Playoff National Champions” (I kid, I kid).
Raymond Cutts, W-DE, 6-4, 265, Jones HS (Orlando)
This local recruit - a 4 star based on ESPN ratings - made an official visit to UCF on December 7th. The visit seems to have gone well, as Cutts cancelled his official visit to Rutgers a week later on December 13th. He appears to be firmly committed to the Knights.
Florida’s 113th best prospect, who has earned an 0.8602 composite rating at 247 Sports, has seen time on both sides of the ball at defensive end and middle linebacker, as well as tight end during his career at Jones High School.
On tape, Cutts look the part of a power defensive end, utilizing great hands and a powerful bull-rush to beat linemen one-on-one. He can rush with his hand in the dirt and from a standing position. You can see that on his film highlights below.
Other notable commitments
- Damarius Good, ATH, 6-0, 183, Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, FL)
Good, a three-star athlete who played running back at Lake Brantley, flipped to UCF just last night on December 17th after de-committing from the University of Miami in November. His commitment moved the Knights composite score from 2nd best in the AAC to 1st, with a personal composite score of 0.8668. Good rushed for 656 yards on 63 carries (10.4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns his senior year.
- Justin Menard, CB/WR, 5-11, 180, Eagles Landing Christian Academy (Stockbridge, GA)
Menard drew interest across the ACC, especially from UNC, Louisville, and Boston College, but ultimately chose to commit to UCF back in June. He played on both sides of the ball at Eagles Landing, with 32 offensive touches for 507 rushing and receiving yards combined and five touchdowns in his senior year, as well as an interception on defense. He projects to play cornerback at UCF, likely as a nickel CB early on with fantastic acceleration to make plays both near the line of scrimmage and in deeper coverage. I’d almost prefer him at free safety considering his athleticism, but we shall see what defensive coordinator Randy Shannon has in store for the defensive back.
Who to keep an eye on for 2019 National Signing Day
- Dillon Gabriel, QB-PP, 5-11, 186, Mililani HS (Mililani, HI)
UCF had a QB commit in Tampa-area prospect Charlie Dean up until last month when he de-committed and flipped to Harvard. After McKenzie Milton’s devastating knee injury in November, UCF must add another QB in this class for depth purposes in 2019 before Milton can return to the game, if he ever even does.
Gabriel, like Milton once was, is an undersized 3 star QB prospect from Mililani High School in Hawaii. The Army de-commit has an offer from Georgia (who could lose 2019 signee and widely-regarded QB1 Justin Fields to transfer) and a late surge of interest from USC under new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, it’s hard to imagine Milton isn’t personally involved in the recruitment of Gabriel to UCF, which could be a huge deal. Keep an eye on his signing, which is set to take place tomorrow, the first day of the ESP, at 5:30 P.M. ET (12:30 P.M. HST).
- Kenny Logan, WR/ATH, 6-1, 183, Pedro Menendez HS (St. Augustine, FL)
Logan is considered a 4 star WR by ESPN and a 3 star ATH by 247. Should he commit to UCF, he would be 247’s highest composite-rated commit in UCF’s 2019 class. He has received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Ole Miss, and several other schools, but has a “warm” interest level in UCF as things stand.
- Brett Seither, TE, 6-5, 228, Clearwater Central Catholic HS (Clearwater, FL)
His hometown of Warwick, Maryland, makes Seither’s Maryland offer seem like the likely choice, but Seither currently lives and plays high school ball about two hours from UCF in Clearwater, FL, and the TE-H prospect has “warm” interest in joining Heupel’s 2019 class, per 247. The idea of competing for early playing time could sway Seither into staying in-state, as UCF has the fewest amount of TEs on their roster (4) compared to other “warm” schools (Michigan State: 6, Maryland and Pittsburgh: 5), and UCF starting tight end Michael Colubiale is in his final year of eligibility this season. Tight end is arguably UCF’s biggest offensive need - Seither needs to be a priority.