In no time, Gus Malzahn made his mark on the UCF football program.
Since Malzahn’s arrival in mid-February 2021, the Knights have been riding a wave of excitement that has carried them through a 9-win campaign. The team capped things off with a 29-17 victory over Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl, followed by the signing of one of the best recruiting classes in school history. This momentum continued throughout spring camp and into a busy offseason.
Malzahn witnessed the excitement of fans at several stops on the ChargeOn tour this spring.
“You can just say there’s a lot of excitement going into the next year, and I think there should definitely be a big bowl win,” Malzahn said. “You could tell they were still excited about it and looking forward to next season.”
With most of his players returning from last season, an influx of talented transfers and solid first-year class, Malzahn’s message to fans is simple.
“We have a real chance and from a team perspective we have to seize the moment,” he said.
The Orlando Sentinel sat down with Malzahn to talk about the program, recruiting track, name, image and likeness (NIL) impact and transfer portal. Here is an abbreviated version of that conversation:
You have completed your second spring camp here at UCF. How would you rate the growth of the program over the past 15 months?
Malzahn: “It’s more the players getting used to the standard, the expectations, the coaching staff and all that and we have a better idea of our players. That’s probably the most important thing compared to the same time last year.
You used the transfer portal to add experience and depth. Do you plan to add other players over the summer?
Malzahn: “There could be a few more additions. We’ll see as long as we can find the right type of player. We’re not going to bring in a guy just to bring in a guy, but we might add a few before the season.
How has the transfer portal changed your job?
Malzahn: ” It’s day and night. The portal changed everything. You have to recruit your players, then other teams actively recruit your players, promising them such and such amount of money. This is probably the biggest challenge then roster management. You have to plan a little. You need to be flexible and this is more like a list of pros. If you lose someone, you have to find a way to bring someone in to fill that spot. I said it at the start, the teams that do the best with squad management will have a big advantage and I still believe that.
There has been speculation that the NCAA Transformation Committee could consider adding dead periods to the transfer. Are you in favor of regulation?
Malzahn: “Any guidelines to narrow things down will help in terms of roster management. From a coach’s perspective, even with the May Day deadline [latest transfers could enter the portal and still be eligible in the fall semester] was good, and I guess there will be more and more of this stuff in the future.
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UCF signed one of its best recruiting classes in program history over the past cycle and the recruiting class of 2023 is already ranked in the top 25. How encouraging is it to see this growth on the recruiting track and how much is it because of the impending move to the Big 12?
Malzahn: “Last year’s signing class – we stayed true to what we said – we recruited state, we tried to recruit locally keeping our best players at home. It was a really good first year, and we had real players. Going to the Big 12, there’s a difference, no doubt. You don’t hear the non-Power Five message from rookies like we did last year It’s opened the doors even more for us and we’re going to continue to build this thing out of this state: what I call this Orlando state. the future.
Much has been said about the state of NIL over the past few months. How concerned are you with the direction of things? There seems to be a movement to increase restrictionsparticularly with collectives and boosters using NIL as a recruitment tool.
Malzahn: “It’s out of the box, no doubt. But it will be a question of adapting. It doesn’t matter what I think or what another coach thinks. It will be the coaches who adapt and the coaches who don’t. We are going to be an adaptive school and program. We said from day one that we were going to embrace this. We are a young school. You’ll see some of the older traditional schools that have an advantage right now because they can fundraise faster, but once that’s settled, it’s going to be a great place. Some of the best brands in the world are here.
Does this look like a tipping point in college football?
Malzahn: “There’s no doubt about it. College football has changed and some changes happen every week. It’s a new day, but it’s going to be about adapting, like I said. It there are a lot of uncomfortable people and there are a lot of unknowns, but we’re going to have to adapt.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.