Since the George O’Leary days in Orlando, UCF has been one of the most feared Group of Five college football teams in the nation. Stacking up seven double-digit win seasons since 2007, the Knights are making the move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12 and top recruits are following along. Head coach Gus Malzahn and Co. are capitalizing on the switch landing elite players like Rivals100 defensive end Kaven Call.
WHAT THE KNIGHTS ARE GETTING
The addition of Call to any collegiate roster is an instant upgrade. He’s a leader and a heads-up player on the field getting the big stops when they count. Call’s Apopka’s squad (12-3) pitched six shutouts during the 2021 season, including Treasure Coast during the third round of the 8A Florida playoffs, limiting the opposition to an average of 8.6 points per game. There is a winner’s mindset that Call carries with him on and off the field.
WHAT MAKES CALL DIFFERENT
Call can do it all. Anything and everything asked of a weakside end is in Call’s toolbelt. The 2023 recruit can rush the passer from either side using more than just a speed or bullrush to collapse the pocket. Offenses often dedicate a back on Call’s side for the chip or to stay in the backfield knowing it is only a matter of seconds before he’s closing on the QB. However teams decide to block him, Call is a force in every game he plays.
Against the run, Call squeezes the play back inside or strings it along to the sidelines leaving no room for running backs up field. With offensive tackles so weary of his speed to the outside, he can run blitz on the inside with the best of them.
WHY THIS IS BIG FOR UCF
The recruiting process for the Knights has no choice but to change. Regardless of who has been on the sidelines at UCF, the coaching staff has had to recruit specifically for their schemes more times than not instead of best talent on the board signing players not gobbled up by Florida, Florida State, and Miami. The 2020 recruiting class was ranked 58th with no four-stars and 16 three-star prospects. The 2021 haul was much the same, one four-star and 13 three-star players slotted at No. 54.
Yet to be completed, the 2022 cycle has seen a big jump in the Rivals’ team rankings sitting at No. 44 after the Early Signing Period with one four-star and 14 three-star players. For the Knights to compete on the national stage against Big 12 Power Five competition each week, the level of recruits signed from one class to the next must improve… getting a verbal commitment from Call so early in the 2023 cycle sends a message to unsigned 2022 players and all the underclassmen in the Sunshine State about the future of the Knights’ program.