No one should really be all that surprised about the sudden surge of UCF football commitments during the past weekend. Nor should another surge go unsuspected as the days dwindle between now and National Signing Day (Feb. 1).
This is how UCF usually operates. This is old school. This isGeorge O'Leary. His way, his style, his preference and there are numerous reasons for this. January recruiting is the name of the game.
If you don't have early commitments, then you don't have late decommitments. Simple. Coach likes things that way.
Early commitments also tend to want to take official visits to schools B, C, D and F, all while being committed to school A. Coach is of the philosophy that a lot of coaches subscribe to in that if you have accepted a date to the dance, you should not be entertaining other invitations.
Coach O'Leary also knows how other schools work. There are vultures out there. UCF can do all the footwork and find recruits who are signable, i.e., academically eligible, but once the cat is out of the bag as to a prospect's standing, other schools will swoop in for the kill. Call it paranoia. Call it what you will. O'Leary calls it experience.
Last year, and even more so the year before, the commitments were early, and the flip-flops were so often that Waffle House probably considered signing on as a sponsor.
There was touted QB DeMarcus Smith, who was actually a late commit, and a late decommit, and then an acutal signee and then, well, we forgot what happened after that. Jermaine Reeve also waffled on the Knights and ended up at Louisville.
Then there was Glen Stanley, who committed to UCF out of Eastern Arizona juco, was then a decommit, a Tennessee commit, then a UT decommit to follow Lane Kiffin to USC, then got out of his scholarship and wanted to come back to UCF. No dice. He was at Florida State, but could not pass through admissions. He ended up at West Texas A&M and next is the NFL Draft, maybe.
And that's why, most years, UCF appears to be reacting too late. The fan base starts getting uneasy, bashing the Knights staff on message boards wondering what the heck is going on. The coaches, however, remain confident, and even half cocky sometimes, knowing that once they get their targets on campus, the hard part is done. The sell is the easy part.
One thing is for sure, the UCF coaches were quite happy on Sunday afternoon, following a successful weekend of hosting prospects as official visitors and landing a quartet of targets high on the Knights “wish list.”
The million-dollar question since the day starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey left the program was what will UCF do about the huge hole left on the roster? With 2012 prospect Kedric Bostic of Jupiter Christiandecommitting, the Knights were left with just one scholarship quarterback heading into spring practice with Blake Bortles. Colorado State transfer and Dr. Phillips product Nico Ranieri is a walk-on.
Sunday, the Knights received commitments from two quarterbacks they are extremely happy about as they add depth behind the Oviedo product Bortles. Jonathan Wallace (6-2, 203) of Phenix City (Ala.) Central and Missouri transfer Tyler Gabbert (6-0, 190), the brother of Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert, will fill a deep crevice in the lineup and keep fans from jumping off the top row of Bright House Networks Stadium ... we hope.
While Gabbert, a typical pro-style QB, is the name guy with whom many UCF fans are already familiar given that he visited last August, many may not know much about Wallace. He is a stud athlete who is bigger than Godfrey, has a better arm than Godfrey and is definitely suited to play in a run option and/or a drop-back passer role. He was formerly committed to Southern Mississippi and he led his high-school team to an average of 38 points per game. He can run too, and scored 19 touchdowns on the ground during this junior season.
UCF is starting to identify the targets it wants to hit and is zeroing in.
Two big-time players will be getting in-home visits from O'Leary and assistant coach Brent Key on Wednesday in Montgomery (Ala.) Carver outside linebacker Harding Harper and Birmingham (Ala.) Jackson-Olin middle linebacker Beau Hankins.
The two are the best of friends and were separated just before their senior season at Jackson-Olin when Harper moved to Montgomery for family reasons.
UCF is offering a package deal, as is Arkansas and — get this — Penn State, which now has former UCF defensive coordinator Ted Roof calling the shots.
So the guy who just quit UCF is going after UCF targets.
Dirty pool? You could say that.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @os_recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting.