Point-counterpoint: Are the UCF Knights invading the USF Bulls' recruiting turf?
My esteemed colleague, John C. Cotey, disagreed with some of the assertions I made in this story in today's paper about whether UCF recruiting is gaining on USF in Tampa Bay. So we hashed it out below. What do you think? Is UCF invading this area? Or is it much ado about not much? And where does the recruiting battle go from here?
COTEY: Well, Matt, the good news: no hate mail yet. I know USF fans tend to be a little sensitive on the subject of this “war” with UCF, but I wouldn’t be too worried if I were the Bulls. Not yet, anyway. I’m with them on this: I think the UCF thing is a little overhyped at this point.
BAKER: So if you’re a Bulls fan/coach, you’re not worried? Even though UCF has gained its first two USF targets from Tampa Bay in a decade? And that the Knights are a finalist for one of the area’s top players? And that they have a new assistant - a well-regarded recruiter - who happens to have ties here? And that if the current rankings hold true, UCF’s class will be ranked higher than USF’s for the third time in the last four seasons?
COTEY: Guess it depends on how much stock you put in rankings and stars. I put more stock in Top 10. But when you get to being No. 60 or 61, not so much.
BAKER: Good point. Rivals’ Chris Nee said UCF has a deeper class right now, but USF has more talent at the top - starting with Winter Park QB Asiantii Woulard. When I started researching this story last week, UCF had the No. 48 class, and USF was around 62. Yesterday, the Knights were 60, and USF was 61. For whatever that’s worth.
COTEY: Hmmm. See you conveniently left out that fact. Listen, my point of view is this: I don’t think Richard Benjamin or Pete DiNovo tip the scales. I really don’t. Both super players, but I think USF fans will take Woulard at QB all day long. Now, factor in Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, who may commit on Friday, and Bailey, and boom! Right now though? I’m holding off buying any UCF gear.
BAKER: Don’t blame you. Gold isn’t your color, anyway. You’re more of a chartreuse guy. But we agree there. USF would rather have Woulard and WR D’Vario Montgomery (four-star recruit from Orlando last year) than DiNovo and Benjamin. The issue is whether DiNovo and Benjamin start a trend. Quarterbacks are your best recruiters, and DiNovo is well-connected. What if he gets the Griffins or Alvin Bailey to follow? Or WR Artavis Scott, a top 2014 prospect?
COTEY: If they get Scott, I will be attending graduate school at UCF and gold will be my color. (I jest....kind of....maybe not...). But UCF may have the better facilities at this point, and will be in the same conference, and are one head coaching change from truly scaring me. However, the prettiest girls? At USF, where I met my wife. (Now excuse me while I forward her the link to this passage.)
BAKER: Aww, how sweet. Anyway, the conference is a key point. That was an advantage the Bulls had over UCF - a BCS conference with nationally televised games, even if they’re on weirdo nights. Now that’s a wash. So here’s my question, Cotey: Where does this go from here? Does UCF remain a part-time player in Tampa Bay? Or are the Knights invading for good?
COTEY: I think UCF continues to hit the area hard, and I think the team’s success this fall and the next (its first the Big East) ON THE FIELD decides this fight for now. Does DiNovo earn playing time? Does Benjamin flourish? So many questions, so much time. And in the recruiting game, it changes so fast. Personally, who gets who is only semi-interesting to me. But what happens when the teams play each other? Now that is why this is getting so fun.
BAKER: Yes, the proof will be in the standings. UCF and USF have similar statures - solid programs with flashes of greatness, somewhere between the UF/FSU/UM powers and the FAU/FIU bottom feeders. If the Bulls or Knights make a charge this year and compete for a conference title, they’ll pull ahead of the other in recruiting. If not, I think they’ll continue to pick off each others’ targets in Tampa Bay. See, Cotey, we can agree on something.
COTEY: FIU beat UCF last year. Just thought I’d throw that out there. Checkmate.