UCF: A Football Mecca in the Making

UCF has seen a record amount of recruits give oral commitments to the program this summer and there are plenty of reasons for it. The Knights are coming off a C-USA title and are the favorites to repeat in 2008. Along with that, UCF has committed itself to its football program and recruits are taking notice.

With state-of-the art facilities, stellar coaches. and other features that are important to recruits, the Knights have taken a gigantic step forward, quickly becoming one of the elite programs in the region. With so many things looking up for the program, UCF is quietly evolving into a football paradise in the making.

High school football players have dozens of aspects they look at when deciding which college they should attend, and UCF fills the quota for many of these recruit's desires. The most important issue that UCF has had to overcome was a lack of tradition and winning from several years back. That being said, Coach George O'Leary feels that UCF is more than on the right track.

"I think what we still need to improve on, and obviously it takes time to get done, is tradition. That's pretty much what you fight right now, I think what helps that out is that you continue to win. I think the thing is when you're only in Division-1 football since 1997, so you don't have that history or tradition that some older schools have, and that plays a big in the fan base, the monetary value, the alumni. That's where we're at, which basically is going to continue to improve as we continue to win," said O'Leary.

There indeed is no substitute for winning, and UCF's improvement from a recruiting stand-point validates that. Several seasons ago, the then Golden Knights went winless in O'Leary's first season. O'Leary then started bringing in new players and established a new attitude amongst the team and since has turned the team into winners. With two C-USA Championship Game appearances and one title in the last three years, along with outplaying the national powerhouse Texas Longhorns, UCF has made a loud statement across the southeast that the Knights are going to be contenders year in and year out.

Along with winning, Coach O'Leary has also attributed his team's recruiting success to UCF's facilities, namely the beautiful on-campus stadium.

"Basically the key factor in this is the stadium, and to get people back on campus. You get students who graduated back on campus and that's a big improvement as far as enthusiasm in the fan base and the students help."

Recruits have been blown away by Bright House Networks Stadium, a venue which holds approximately 45,000 people, a number that was nearly met every game last season. With the brand new stadium, elite workout facilities, an indoor practice field and a beautiful campus, the university has certainly attracted many recruits. Jarrett Swaby, one of UCF's 10 commitments for the 2009 class, was blown away by the campus. "UCF had a great campus and terrific facilities. I've seen Miami's and Florida's campuses, and UCF is right up there," said Swaby.

The Knights also have a strong pipeline to the NFL, which has attracted players to the school. Not only does Coach O'Leary have an NFL pedigree, but last year UCF had three players drafted and two more signed with NFL teams as free agents. UCF has produced many accomplished NFL players in recent memory, such as Pro Bowler Asante Samuel, impressive receivers Brandon Marshall and Mike Walker, and star running back Kevin Smith.

With elite facilities, experienced coaches and an ever increasing influx of pro talent, UCF has become a popular destination for some of the area's top talent. The Knights have quietly made numerous statements on the recruiting trail this summer, beating out schools like FSU and Auburn. Schools in the south have already noticed that UCF is amongst the big boys and with a couple more wins over BCS schools and more strong conference play, UCF should only validate its new status as a premier power in the south.

Brendan Sonnone is a senior writer for InsideKnights.com, covering the UCF Knights for Scout.com. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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