Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright has thoughts on Miami’s season, the Big Ten’s recruiting success in the Sunshine State and Gus Malzahn‘s success at UCF when the Knights move to the Big 12.
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1. What’s the potential fallout from a five-win Miami season?
The Hurricanes (5-5, 3-3 ACC) have two chances to win one to make the cut for a bowl berth. If Las Vegas has a say in it, Miami will fall by 19 points this weekend to Clemson making the regular season home finale against Pitt (6-4, 3-3 ACC) on Nov. 26 the biggest game of the year. The home game against the Panthers is winnable, and one that could easily be lost. If Miami falls short of getting a bowl bid, what is the potential fallout?
NIL deals were supposed to help sway elite prospects to South Florida, rebuilding the roster in Mario Cristobal’s image. After four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada flipped to Florida on Nov. 11, doubt has to be settling in on the future. The class is still loaded by all accounts with three five-star players and nine four-stars, but is Rashada’s decision the outlier or the first in a developing trend?
Miami’s offense has been below average this season scoring at a clip of 25.7 points per game, and that includes putting 70 points on Bethune-Cookman in the opener. The defense has been above average, holding teams to 23.9 points per game. There is a future to sell at Miami, but if recruits are not liking the product on the field and the Canes miss a bowling opportunity, expect more decommitments to happen. Several Miami commits are top targets for other teams that can also sell them on the future but with better success on the field.
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2. The Big Ten invasion in Florida picks up steam
The blueprint is out there. Ohio State does it well. Wisconsin and others have done it in the past.
Difference makers are on the high school fields in Florida.
The Buckeyes’ top-five class ranking can be credited to the two five-stars and three four-stars in the haul from the Sunshine State. Other Big Ten programs are seeing the success and trying to emulate the process, and seeing returns.
The Hawkeyes made quick work in Florida, landing three-stars Kamari Moulton and Jarriett Buie in November. After a weekend visit in East Lansing, the Spartans sold four-star linebacker Jayvant Brown on his future with Michigan State. The next Florida commit heading to the Big Ten could be four-star IMG defensive end Cameron Lenhardt who is taking serious looks at Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.
3. Can Gus Malzahn sustain success at UCF?
Thanks to George O’Leary, Scott Frost and Josh Heupel, 10-win seasons or better, especially since 2010, have become the norm not the exception at UCF. After winning 13, 12 and 10 games from 2017-19, the Knights are wins against Navy and USF shy of hitting double-digits again. Gus Malzahn fell one victory shy a year ago but can hit the mark for the first time as a head coach since the 2017 season with Auburn (10-4).
When the 2023 season kicks off, UCF will be a part of the Big 12. Group of Five teams making the jump to Power Five action typically do not do well, even those successful programs such as Utah and TCU.
Of all the success Kyle Whittingham had in the MWC, there were growing pains before the Utes began to win consistently in the Pac-12. Another legendary coach, Gary Patterson, had uneven results going from the MWC into the Big 12 with just three big seasons (2014, 2015 and 2017) and four losing campaigns.
The Knights currently have the nation’s 57th-ranked 2023 recruiting class and the 2022 class was slotted at No. 55. With the exception of Cincinnati, the Knights might be able to out-recruit the rest of the AAC, but that won’t be the case in the Big 12.
Using the 2022 class as a baseline, Texas was ranked No. 5, Oklahoma No. 8 and Oklahoma State No. 22.
Iowa State (No. 29), Baylor (No. 32), West Virginia (32), and Texas Tech (39) fell into the next tier.
UCF is looking to the transfer portal for players, but future success will be found landing high school talent, developing it in the system, and using transfers to fill immediate needs. Success in the Big 12 can be found, but only if Malzahn and company bring the players to the field to make it happen.
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