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Tennessee stole Josh Heupel away from UCF. Oddly enough, that might be the best thing to happen to the Knights. Since then, the program has added former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn as Heupel’s replacement.
It’s premature to call that hire a home run, but early indications are positive.
Malzahn has added a needed buzz to the UCF program. After falling off the national title contender stage in 2017, the perception of the Knights slowly began to change. It was starting to be viewed as a good — not great — program.
Maybe all it took was a coaching change — one that UCF didn’t even want — in order to change that perception. Since Malzahn took over, the team has added several former top recruits. Most of them come from Auburn, including:
- WR Nate Craig-Myers: 4-star / No. 45 overall / No. 6 WR
- RB Mark Antony-Richards: 4-star / No. 90 / No. 4 ATH
- WDE Big Kat Bryant: 4-star / No. 189 / No. 14 WDE
Those additions are a huge boost for a Group of Five school such as UCF. Like Malzahn, former SEC — and ACC — stars have taken their talent to a lower level. Whether it’s depth, starters or somewhere in-between, it helps.
Plus, wide receiver/athlete Titus Mokiao-Atimalala is the first four-star high school commit for the Knights since 2017. That’s a good sign, right?
It will be fun to watch how Malzahn’s success is viewed compared to Heupel and new Auburn coach Bryan Harsin. We have to remember, Malzahn has a much clearer path to success in the AAC than Heupel and Harsin do in the SEC.
At the very least, all those new weapons should continue what has been an already productive offense in Orlando.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.