The Prospector: Recruiting opportunity awaits UCF this weekend as host to Miami

Panning Central Florida, as well as the entire state, for tomorrow's stars

We don't need aerial shots of a UFL game to remind us that Orlando lacks sex appeal when it comes to the football season. Heck, we don't even get a preseason taste of the NFL now that the Buccaneers took training camp back to Tampa Bay.

That's why a game like Saturday's showdown between UCF and mighty-again Miami is to be savored.

And capitalized on by the Knights.

Throw out the obvious discrepancies between the two programs. Forget about the daunting 15½-point spread staring at the home team. The atmosphere at sold-out Bright House Stadium will be terrific — maybe even better than the inaugural game, a thriller, against Texas two years ago — and if you're a college prospect in Central Florida (maybe even in the state of Florida) you'll want to be there.

UCF wants you there, too.

But only if you're sincere with your interests in the program, that is.

"We have a good class coming in right now," Knights Coach George O'Leary said, "if they all stay with their word."

To date, the 2010 class consists of 16 oral commitments, including 10 from the state. It's possible every one of those prospects wants to be at the UCF-UM game. It's also possible that a bunch of other prospects would love to come just to come. (Note: the same could be said about tonight's mega-matchup in the Big East between No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 21 South Florida in Tampa.)

If a school is gracious enough to extend an invitation to such an event, you hope the guest would do the right thing and accept only if he had legitimate interest in the program. Usually, coaching staffs have their fingers on that pulse.

"We've nailed down guys we're going after," said UF recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales, who should have a nice gathering in Gainesville for homecoming against Arkansas this weekend. "If we've got them on an official list, we have a good enough relationship where we feel confident in them being here. As far as a bottom line, he's got to be interested in us."

We're halfway through the college football season and hundreds of players across the country have given oral pledges to schools. Plenty of those committed players, however, are taking official visits elsewhere, as well as unofficial ones like the UCF-UM game affords. The NCAA permits unlimited unofficial visits to games for recruits, with each prospect allowed three tickets (one for himself, plus two guests).

O'Leary spoke to Sentinel beat writer Iliana Limon recently about this silly part of the so-called silly season.

"Kids today, a lot of them change their mind," he said. "I'm very simple about that. Once you're committed, I commit to you. And if you continue to look, then I'm going to continue to look. It's a business. That's how I handle it. I don't tell them they can't visit anywhere else, but if they're going to visit elsewhere then I'm going to continue looking to replace them because that usually happens."

And when you've been doing it as long as O'Leary has, you're probably pretty good at picking up the signs.

"You can almost tell the jokers that aren't [solid with their commitment]," he said. "They're going to go with the next lollipop that offers them something. I think the big thing is that when you shake hands with people, it means something."

This weekend on the UCF campus means a lot to the Knights.

Here's hoping their hospitality is reciprocated.

Turf war

At last, Lane Kiffin has something to back up his bellicose bravado.

Tennessee 45, Georgia 19.

Just to be sure that Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier weren't the only ones on Kiffin's rip list, he tossed a little bone to the Bulldogs on their way out of Knoxville after UT's most lopsided win in the series since 1992.

"I know there are a lot of great teams in this conference," Kiffin said last week after the game. "But I told [my players], to me, this is the biggest matchup — Georgia — because of what we do recruiting. For this staff, this is the biggest matchup."

That's what he said in public.

Here's what he said in private: "He basically made a promise to us that we wouldn't lose to them anymore, forever or until he leaves," All-America S Eric Berry, who hails from Atlanta, told his hometown Journal-Constitution. "He's not going to let Georgia beat us."

The Volunteers will need players to do that and there are plenty in the metro Atlanta and the rest of the football-fertile Peach State. As the AJC pointed out, RB Jamal Lewis, OL Cosey Coleman and S Deon Grant — all from Atlanta — starred during the Vols' 1998 run to the national title.

UT already has commitments from two Georgia studs in WR Markeith Ambles and MLB Michael Taylor, but the guy the Vols really want reportedly is 6-foot-6, 293-pound OL Jawuan James, the Gwinnett County giant who decommitted from Alabama. Stay tuned.

Kiffin has basically set up an orange and white lawn chair in Mark Richt'sfront yard.

We'll see how long it stays there.

Etc.

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas CB Lamarcus Joyner, the nation's No. 2 defensive back by Rivals who has FSU and Ohio State atop his list, has decided to make an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend. ... DeAndrew White, a heralded wide receiver from Texas, jumped on the Alabama bandwagon and committed last week. White, who averaged 24.5 yards on 34 receptions as a junior, is the reigning Class 5A champ in the 200 meters and is ranked No. 3 in the nation in the long jump. He chose 'Bama over Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU and Notre Dame. ... Already with an offer from UF, Clearwater Countryside's Tyler Moore figured to be one of the top offensive line prospects in the state next year, but Moore ended the intrigue (for now) by committing to Nebraska. ... Jordan Hicks, the No. 1-rated outside linebacker in the nation, took an official visit to Texas last weekend. The Longhorns are finalist for the Ohioan, along with Ohio State, Florida, Alabama and USC. ... Miami Northwestern defeated Miami Central 22-14 in their nationally televised showdown on ESPN last Thursday night. One of the game's marquee attractions, QB Jeffrey Godfrey, never got his offense going, finishing just 8-of-19 for 144 yards, including a 59-yard TD pass. Though just 5-11, 167, Godfrey is being hotly sought as a QB with his top five believed to be UCF, USF, FSU, UM and Michigan. ... Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast LB Jeff Luc has been demoted by Rivals from a five-star prospect to a four, while Aquinas CB Cody Riggs and Bradenton Southeast S Jonathan Dowling (Florida commitment) were bumped out of the national top 100.

Chris Harry can be reached at chary@orlandosentinel.com
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