The UCF Knights have risen up the power rankings of Florida college football over the past few years. After winning 10-plus games in three of the last four seasons, fans have started to take notice of the Group of Five program.
UCF vaulted back into the national conversation on Monday by hiring Gus Malzahn to become the school’s new head football coach. The 55-year-old spent the last eight seasons at Auburn, racking up a record of 68-35, but was fired this offseason after an underwhelming year.
The Knights will give Malzahn a chance to recover his reputation, while the program itself hopes to bounce back from a 6-4 record in 2020.
Opinions on the hire seemed to vary, but for the most part Malzahn was well received by the UCF faithful. Part of that warm reception was due to an answer the head coach gave about recruiting in the state of Florida.
“We’re going to recruit Florida like nobody else,” Malzahn said Monday in his introductory press conference, per 247Sports. “We’re going to recruit like our hair is on fire. We’re going to go after the best players in America and we’re not backing down to anybody. We have got a lot to offer here, and we’re going to put together a staff that can (recruit).
“I was talking to Terry (Mohajir) and the unique thing is about the last eight years — the footprint we’ll be recruiting in, I already have experienced. I already know the top players. I already know the coaches and everything that goes on.”
"We're going to recruit Florida like nobody else. We're going to recruit like our hair is on fire."
— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 15, 2021
Malzahn revealed another small piece of his recruiting strategy, confirming to UCF fans that his focus will always be in the program’s home state, but he’ll always look for talent throughout the South.
“Florida will be our (recruiting) priority,” Malzahn said. “But we’ll also recruit Georgia, we’ll recruit Alabama and we’ll recruit in South Carolina. If we have relationships with a certain player outside, we will (recruit them), but we’ll spend most of our time within a six-hour circle.”
The 55-year-old accepted a five-year, $11.5 million contract to take over the Knights, giving him plenty of time to create an even firmer recruiting base in Florida. Malzahn will surely hit the ground running as soon as possible to prepare UCF for the 2021 season next fall.