Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Colleges

UCF fills gaps despite sanctions

ORLANDO — George O'Leary knew he would have issues to overcome while securing his first Big East recruiting class.

The Central Florida coach believed NCAA sanctions would be the biggest. Instead, it turned out to be last-minute poaching attempts.

"(Running back) Micah Reed, right up until (Wednesday) morning and five minutes before he (sent) the letter (of intent), he had schools trying to flip him," O'Leary said of one of his top targets Wednesday.

The Knights lost 20 seniors from their 2012 team that finished 10-4 and won the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. And the NCAA reduced the their allotment of official visits from 56 to 30 as part of a litany of penalties levied last year for recruiting violations that stemmed from involvement with agent runners.

O'Leary, though, believes he filled the needs of his roster with a 19-player class to compete in a new conference this fall.

"This is the first year that the class that we had … there were at least nine or 10 guys that were trying to get flipped by SEC schools, ACC schools, which I think shows the quality of the class," he said.

The class also includes three January enrollees, including quarterbacks Pete DiNovo (East Lake) and Justin Holman.

"The three key elements that we looked at (for all recruits) was range, speed and versatility," O'Leary said. "A number of the athletes that we signed can play a couple of positions."

Big catches: At a position of need, UCF held on to Reed after Texas came calling with a late offer. When his letter arrived, it drew cheers from the coaches. The final faxed letter to come in, from linebacker Chequan Burkett, was vital, too. Auburn took a hard look at him late in the process. Coaches also were excited about Lakewood defensive back Shaquill Griffin, who drew major interest in the past week.

A SCARE: The Knights weren't sure what would happen as the clock ticked past noon and Burkett's letter had not come across their fax line. Eventually they got ahold of Burkett and finalized a class that did not have any of the final oral commitments flip at the last minute.

One lost: Offensive lineman Wilson Bell, a one-time recruit, signed with Florida State.

Big potential: O'Leary has high hopes for William Stanback. Listed as an athlete, he shined as a running back at Hempstead (N.Y.) Uniondale but showed potential on both sides of the ball.

Information from the Associated Press and the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.

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