Feb. 3, 2010
UCF SIGNING DAY CENTRAL
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ORLANDO, Fla. -
By John Denton
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1:30 P.M. UPDATES
UCF's coaching staff erupted in joy and applause just minutes ago when standout offensive lineman Torrian Wilson phoned offensive line coach Brent Key to inform him that he was picking UCF.
Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from Miami Northwestern, was rated as the nation's eighth-best offensive guard by Rivals.com. Wilson had originally committed to Stanford, but changed to UCF on Wednesday morning. He is UCF's first-ever Under Armor All-American signee.
``I just got off the phone with Torrian,'' a giddy Key informed the UCF coaches assembled at the Wayne Densch Sports Center.
``Well, what did he say?'' UCF head coach George O'Leary asked.
``He's coming!!!'' Key said as the group erupted with cheers and high-fives. ``Unbelievable. That's so good for us.''
Wilson de-committed from Stanford last week, and originally listed Tennessee, Michigan and USF. But the Knights made the late push and snagged the All-American player.
Wilson suffered a minor knee injury this past season that required surgery. He attended the Under Armor Game in St. Petersburg in January, but he didn't play in the game because of the recovery from the surgery.
As a junior, Wilson was an All-State and All-Dade County pick. He recorded a staggering 120 ``pancake'' blocks that season.
Wilson, the eighth-ranked guard in the country by Rivals.com, called Key mid-morning on Wednesday to inform him that he was planning to sign with UCF. Key said that Wilson couldn't wait to get onto campus at UCF.
Wilson, a standout at Miami Northwestern High School, de-committed from Stanford because of the distance factor. He had strongly considered offers from Tennessee, Michigan and USF, but jumped at the chance to play for the Knights.
``When he called he was so jacked up about coming here,'' Key recalled. ``I told him that it takes a leader and a real man to stand up and make the kind of decision that he made. He just told me, `Coach, I'm a leader and I want to lead your offensive line.'^''
When Key informed the coaching staff of Wilson's intentions to play for UCF, the group roared with approval and slapped high fives. He is the Knights' first-ever Under Armor All-American selection.
Chalk up another major contribution to UCF football for standout end Bruce Miller, Conference USA's Defensive Player of the Year.
Miller served as one of the hosts for Torrian Wilson when the highly rated offensive guard visited UCF's campus last month. Miller was very impressive with Wilson's football IQ and his thoughts about the game. Miller said he could tell right away that Wilson was very intrigued about the prospect of playing at UCF.
Wilson, a 6-foo4-, 315-pound guard from Miami Northwestern High School, originally committed to Stanford, but backed out of that commitment. Wilson then considered Tennessee, Michigan and USF before ultimately deciding to play for the Knights.
``We hung out together a lot while he was here and you could just tell he was a nice guy,'' Miller remembered. ``He told me that he liked everything about it here at UCF and really enjoyed his visit. You could see right away that he was passionate about football, and that's probably why he's such a good player.''
George O'Leary got his man - and quite possibly his replacement for standout defensive tackle Torell Troup - in massive Miami Central lineman Jose Jose.
Jose, a 6-foot-2, 355-pound defensive tackle, signed his National Letter of Intent to play at UCF. He joins Miami Central teammates Jeffrey Godfrey, Joshua Reese, LeBranden Richardson and Jamar McClain at UCF.
Jose was targeted by O'Leary because of his power along the defensive line and his smarts in the classroom. When Jose's signing became official around noon on Wednesday, becoming UCF's 22nd commitment, the coaching staff celebrated with roaring approval.
``This biggest thing with him is his power. He is a powerful lineman with great feet,'' O'Leary said. ``He really reminds me of Troup because he got here about the same size. His point of power is just tremendous.''
Troup competed in the East-West Shrine Game last week in Orlando and is expected to be a mid-round selection in the NFL Draft.
O'Leary said that Jose was a state chess champion as a ninth grader, giving the UCF coaching staff hope that he will easily make the transition from high school to college.
``I don't think I'll forget his first or last name,'' O'Leary joked. ``Jose is a bright guy and hopefully he'll be a quick study on the football field for us.''
12:00 P.M. UPDATE
UCF landed its physically biggest signee on Wednesday when Atlanta's Tony Jacob honored his verbal commitment and signed his National Letter of Intent. Big, as in 6-foot-8, 310 pounds and a size 19 shoe, big.
Jacob, a standout basketball player at Westlake High School, didn't start playing football until his junior season. He turned down a couple of Division I basketball scholarship offers and a late push from football coaches at Oklahoma State and Georgia and stuck to his UCF commitment.
``He was a little bit of an unknown because he didn't start playing football until late,'' UCF offensive line coach Brent Key said. ``But he did a good job staying loyal to us.''
UCF coaches Sean Beckton and David Kelly first saw Jacob while recruiting a defensive back at Westlake High School, and informed Key that he had to take a closer look at Jacob.
``That was on a Monday and I was already in Atlanta, so I got over to see him on a Tuesday,'' Key remembered. ``I saw him do things like moving his feet and his flexibility that came so naturally to him. The sky is the limit for a kid like him because he has so many things that you just can't teach.''
Added Beckton: ``Once he gets in the weight room and gets stronger, I really think he's going to be a good one for us.''
Two South Carolina products became UCF's 19th and 20th commitments on Wednesday - and one of the names will be very familiar to UCF fans.
Clayton Geathers, cousin of UCF standout defensive end Jarvis Geathers, signed his National Letter of Intent Wednesday morning. Clayton is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defensive back from Georgetown, S.C.
Davious Chestnut, a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder, was a high school teammate of Geathers and will join him in the UCF defensive backfield. He had three interceptions and 48 tackles this past season.
Clayton helped his team at Carver's Bay High School win state championships in South Carolina in 2007 and '08. He was also recruited by Georgia and South Carolina.
Jarvis Geathers, whose father was NFL standout and Super Bowl winner Robert ``Jumpy'' Geathers, is preparing himself for UCF's Pro Day on March 25 in hopes of getting selected in the NFL Draft. Geathers was an All Conference-USA pick after recording 11 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries as a senior.
The Miami-to-Orlando pipeline is flowing what with five South Florida players having already signed their National Letters of Intent with Orlando.
UCF has already landed Miami Central products Joshua Reese (wide receiver), LeBranden Richardson (defensive end) and Jamar McClain (defensive back) this morning.
UCF might have suffered one of its few recruiting setbacks when Miami Central running back Brandon Gainer signed to play with the University of Kentucky, according to UK's official website. UCF had hoped to add the back to bolster the depth behind Brynn Harvey and Jonathan Davis at tailback.
Reese, a 6-foot-1, 182-pounder, is UCF's highest-ranked signee. He's ranked No. 22 at his position and No. 146 overall by Rivals.com. He had written offers from Florida, FSU, Tennessee, Nebraska, South Carolina, USF and West Virginia.
But he picked UCF, where he could potentially team with his former high school quarterback, Jeffrey Godfrey, who is already enrolled at UCF.
The Reese signing to go along with Georgia's Jordan Akins gives the Knights two dynamic prospects at wide receiver.
All you need to know about the UCF landing wide receiver Jordan Akins on Wednesday is that the Knights beat out the University of Georgia for one of that state's best products.
And according to Steve Bouye, father of UCF freshman defensive back A.J. Bouye, the Knights just landed a future superstar in the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Atkins.
``No disrespect to anybody else that they get, but UCF just got their best wide receiver in Jordan,'' Bouye said. ``I know he'll play right away. Once he learns to play wide receiver at that level, you're looking at a Brandon Marshall type of player.''
Akins was an all-state receiver as a senior. And he's also expected to be highly coveted by Major League Baseball teams because he has a 95 mile-an-hour fastball and he's a dazzling centerfielder.
UCF beat out Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Maryland, Ole Miss and UConn for Atkins. Said UCF head coach George O'Leary: ``You beat out Georgia for a Georgia kid, that's huge for us. (Georgia) had an all-out press on the kid, but he stayed with us. He's a really good player.''
Akins, who plans to room with A.J. Bouye and fellow Wednesday signee Quenton Brown at UCF, shocked many of the friends, family and faculty members at Union Grove High School in McDonough, Ga., when he picked UCF over Georgia.
``They were hot,'' Steve Bouye said with a chuckle. ``They dropped the microphone.''
Bouye said that had Akins not spent his first three years of high school at tiny Strong Rock Christian High School before transferring to Union Grove, he likely would have been considered a five-star prospect by the national recruiting services.
``He just liked the whole situation at UCF and all of the coaches there gave him a lot of love,'' Bouye said. ``It felt like family to him there.''
Defensive tackle E.J. Dunston, one of the Knights' five commitments currently enrolled at UCF, has already made quite an impression on defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable.
The 6-foot-2, 308-pound defensive tackle was a force at Edgewater High School the past three seasons and comes to UCF highly recommended by coach Bill Gierke. Gierke, it should be noted, convinced UCF to take a flier on wide receiver/kick returner Quincy McDuffie, who had a tremendous freshman season with the Knights.
Dunston is already involved in UCF's strength and conditioning program and Huxtable said he can't wait to see the powerful defensive tackle hit the football field in the spring. Spring practice starts on March 18 and the UCF Spring Game is April 17.
``E.J. is a strong, physical kid and I was really impressive with his accountability of getting done all that he had to do to get here in January,'' Huxtable said. ``He's a very serious kid who takes his work very serious. A lot of the older kids on our team already have spoken very highly of E.J. already.''
Huxtable thinks that Dunston's enrollment in UCF in January will give him a chance to compete for playing time this coming season. UCF lost starting tackles Torell Troup and Travis Timmons to graduation.
Said Huxtable: ``It's so huge for a kid to get here early and get in our weight program. And just being around the other kids is big, too. It allows the kid to get in the academic scene and not have all of that new stuff thrown at them during the season. And I'm excited about him being here for spring ball and watching him compete on the field.''
8:35 A.M. UPDATE
The signing of Sylvester, Ga., tight end Justin Tukes brought out a wave of emotion from the UCF coaching staff Wednesday morning.
When word came down that Tukes' National Letter of Intent came across the school's FAX machine at 8:25, head coach George O'Leary said, ``That's great. I really wanted that kid.''
Tukes has tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. Playing in a run offense where he was used predominantly as a blocker, Tukes caught just 16 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns as a senior at Worth County High School.
Tukes is UCF's ninth commitment of the day.
8:05 A.M. UPDATE
Justin and Jordan McCray, who signed their National Letters of Intent this morning, come to UCF as quite familiar faces.
Their brother, Cliff McCray, started at left guard this past season as a senior. He graduates in May, and twin brothers Justin and Jordan were on campus to watch most of their older brother's games.
Their mother, Debra McCray, said sending her two youngest sons to UCF was a no-brainer after seeing the success that Cliff had in Orlando.
``UCF was very good to Cliff and very good to us,'' said Debra, who visited campus along with husband Clifford and sons Justin and Jordan last weekend. ``We like not only the athletic component, but we also love how they focus on the education. That's my key.''
Debra said the two brothers, who often finish each other's sentences and bear a striking resemblance to one another, were determined to play together in college. Jordan spent most of his high school career as a center and guard, while Justin has played tackle and guard. Both project as guards in college at UCF.
``We always said that they were a package deal,'' Debra McCray said. ``I like it that way because all three of the kids have always been close.''
UCF offensive line coach Brent Key recruited the McCray twins and was as impressed with the two player's talents on the wrestling mat as he was on the football field.
Jordan McCray said he's excited about the promise of establishing a Miami-to-Orlando pipeline at UCF. Miami Central quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey is already on campus and the McCray twins are very familiar with him.
``It's cool what's going on with that,'' Jordan said. ``We got to play with all of the Miami Central and Northwestern guys in all-star games. After watching them it seems like when we all get together we should be able to do big things at UCF.''
7:50 A.M. UPDATE
UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe locked onto quarterback Blake Bortles early in the recruiting process and he thinks the 6-foot-4, 222-pounder's best days are ahead of him under center.
Even though the Knights might have a logjam of players at quarterback, Taaffe said he sees Bortles playing quarterback at UCF.
``He's a big, strong, athletic kid who has all the size that you are looking for at that position,'' Taaffe said. ``He's an extremely competitive person and we've seen some instances on tape when he just took games over. We liked what we saw from him as a junior, and we targeted him immediately. He had an even better senior season.''
As for defensive end Quenton Brown, a 215-pounder from Lilburn, Ga., UCF's coaches are eager to get him into their strength and conditioning program. When Brown adds some added size and strength, UCF defensive line coach Jim Panagos projects him to be a future star in the UCF defense.
Several other schools saw the same sort of potential in Brown. Miami and Michigan started recruiting him late, but he never wavered from his commitment with the Knights. Brown was recruited to UCF by assistant coach David Kelly.
``He's a really explosive kid and once he puts on some weight he's going to be a really good one,'' Panagos said. ``He can flat-out run and he's really competitive. Quenton committed to us early and he had Miami and Michigan coming after him, but he stayed strong with us all along.''
The first National Letter of Intent FAXes have come through today, National Signing Day, and Oviedo quarterback Blake Bortles, defensive end Quenton Brown and offensive tackle Zach Soto are now officially members of the UCF Knights.
Bortles, a 6-foot-4, 222-pound quarterback, set a Seminole County record with 5,576 career passing yards. Bortles could switch positions at UCF and may play tight end if he's not in the mix at quarterback.
Brown, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound defensive end from Lilburn, Ga., helped Tucker High School to a Class 4A state championship and a 14-1 record. He was also recruited by Miami, Ole Miss, Michigan State, West Virginia and Michigan State.
Soto, a 6-foot-6, 278-pound tackle from Miami's Monsignor Pace High School, was an All-Dade County performer as a senior. He registered a whopping 64 pancake blocks during his senior season.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.