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UCF heads for mountains, opting for size on offensive side of ball

The Knights sign 15 offensive players, including four linemen who weigh at least 300 pounds.

The days of Daunte Culpepper are long gone, but Central Florida does not intend to allow an offensive dropoff.

For evidence, look no further than the positions where the Golden Knights placed emphasis on this year's recruiting class offensive line, quarterback and receiver.

The Knights signed 26 players Wednesday and 15 are on the offensive side of the ball, including a crop of mountainous run-blocking linemen, a massive quarterback not too dissimilar to Culpepper and a tight end the coaches think will have immediate impact.

"We had to address some issues on our football team, particularly on the offensive line," UCF coach Mike Kruczek said. "We needed some big guys that were a little more mature so we went the junior college route."

Mount Everest comes in the form of offensive tackle Patrick Jenrette, a 6-foot-7, 380-pound giant from Alan Hancock Community College in California who is believed to be the state's biggest player.

Considered a project, Jenrette was so big in high school (420 pounds) that he could not get a helmet and did not play until his senior year when one was specially ordered for him. An early signee, Jenrette qualified and has been running and doing conditioning drills to keep his weight down.

Considering the imminent loss of senior tackles Frank Haynes and David Wilson, the Knights appear to have gotten immediate help with the arrival of Alex Hernandez (6-5, 300) from East Los Angeles Community College and Steve Edwards (6-5, 345) from West Hills (Calif.) Community College. Both could start. Tyewan Brown (6-4, 300) of Miami Edison rounds out a promising group.

Recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach Scott Fountain said the Knights intend to boost the running game by locking in offensive linemen for the next few years.

"We want to be able to run the ball more and last year we had a tough time with short-yardage situations," Fountain said. "So we needed to get some linemen who were big but could move their feet. The three junior college guys are ready to do that now."

UCF won't forget the passing game. Vic Penn is back for his senior season, but the Knights signed Tracy Thorpe, a 6-4, 240-pounder from Melbourne High whose game bears a strong resemblance to Culpepper's. A big, strong and mobile quarterback, Thorpe has a chance to play himself into a starting position.

"If he can learn the position _ he's only been playing quarterback for two years _ he would be very tough to keep out of the lineup, simply because of his speed," Kruczek said. "His athleticism reminds you of Daunte. If we can teach him the right way, he's a superstar waiting to happen."

The Knights' logjam at quarterback got more crowded with the signing of Jon Rivera of Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey. Rivera will join Thorpe, Kelvin Robinson and Brian Miller in a fight for playing time.

Tight end Michael Gaines, of Tallahassee Florida High, will have no problem earning playing time. He is expected to start and his presence likely will change the offensive philosophy.

"I think he might be the best pure football player we have ever signed," Fountain said. "He's a big kid, a huge kid, a solid 270-plus pounds and he keeps his speed at 4.7, maybe even a little less. On top of that, he has tremendous hands. Size, speed and hands are combinations hard to find."

CENTRAL FLORIDA SIGNEES

Player Pos. Ht. Wt. School

John Andrews LB 6-0 230 Atlanta Douglas

Gerren Bray DB 6-0 205 Fort Lauderdale Stranahan

Savarris Brown LB 6-0 215 Fort Myers

Ben Brinson DE 6-5 255 Orlando Evans

Tyewan Brown OL 6-4 300 Miami Edison

Derrick Crawford DL 6-5 270 Trinity Valley (Texas) CC

Andreal Curry RB 6-2 240 Milford (Conn.) Prep

Steve Edwards OL 6-5 345 West Hills College (Calif.)

Damani Fagan DB 6-1 175 St. Thomas Aquinas

Michael Gaines TE 6-3 265 Tallahassee Florida High

James Gerald WR 5-9 175 Miami Central

Marcus Glover WR 5-11 170 Ocala Vanguard

Alex Haynes RB 5-11 205 Orlando Evans

Alex Hernandez OL 6-5 300 East Los Angeles CC

Alphonzo Hopkins CB 5-11 170 Cairo (Ga.)

Gerard Jackson RB 5-8 210 Melbourne Palm Bay

Patrick Jenrette OL 6-7 380 Allan Hancock CC (Calif.)

Norman Lewis OL 6-3 270 Port Charlotte

Travis Muse OL 6-6 320 Arcadia DeSoto

Antoine Poe LB 6-0 205 Lakeland Kathleen

Derek Ponder WR 6-1 185 Ocala Vanguard

Jon Rivera QB 6-3 185 Perth Amboy (N.J.)

Freddy Saint Preux DL 6-5 265 Milford (Conn.) Academy

Tracy Thorpe QB 6-4 240 Melbourne High

Chris Weeks DL 6-2 280 Jupiter, Dwyer

Keith Whatley DB 5-11 190 Atlanta Douglass

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