UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (2024)

ORLANDO — UCF's biggest recruiting weekend of the summer paid instant dividends Sunday afternoon when one of the Knights' prized 2025 offensive line targets verbally committed inside Gus Malzahn's office.

Gavin Blanchard, who recently transferred to Wiregrass Ranch from Tampa Jesuit, told Malzahn, offensive line coach Herb Hand and director of high school relations Jeris McIntyre that he was "all-in, through thick and thin" with UCF and planned to shut down his recruitment. He received hugs and a round of applause inside the Wayne Densch Athletic Center and announced his commitment on social media hours after the conclusion of Bounce House Weekend.

"It basically just affirmed what I already know — that this place is family," Blanchard said. "That's the most important thing. It's a family here. That's why I want to be a part of it."

UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (1)

2025 USA Today Top 100: Who are the top rising senior football recruits in Florida?

Blanchard became the Knights' 10th verbal commit for the 2025 cycle, a class that currently ranks 23rd in the nation according to 247Sports' composite scores. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound guard is the No. 59 interior offensive line prospect in the country, and he held Power 4 offers from Georgia Tech, Indiana, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Purdue and TCU.

UCF likes Blanchard at left guard, he said, though he also lined up at right tackle and right guard during the 2023 season for Jesuit as it reached the regional final round of the Class 3M playoffs. He performed well at the Under Armour All-America Next camp series event in Orlando in February.

"I've been wanting to commit here for a little while," Blanchard said. "I figured this was the time to do it.

"I'm going to come in, work and do my job. I'm going to work to get my spot."

UCF rolled in luxury cars Friday night, brought recruits to Universal's Islands of Adventures and hosted a campus-wide scavenger hunt on golf carts Saturday. Here are some other recruiting notes from the weekend:

UCF continues to push for 5-star flips of Malik Autry, Duke Johnson

Arguably the two biggest names on UCF's visitor list this weekend are currently committed elsewhere, but the Knights continued to make an impression on Opelika (Ala.) defensive lineman Malik Autry and Dodge County (Ga.) linebacker/safety Duke Johnson, a pair of top-50 national prospects.

Committed to Auburn since Feb. 1, 2023, Autry attended the Knights' spring game in April and has maintained strong bonds with Malzahn and defensive tackles coach Kenny Martin. Autry posted onto X that he had a "GREAT VISIT," along with the hashtag "make history" and a pair of thinking emojis. UCF has never signed a five-star football recruit.

During his junior season at Opelika, Autry (6-6, 283) recorded 56 tackles, nine tackles for loss, seven QB hurries and 3½ sacks. He is also scheduled to take official visits to USC, Florida and Ohio State this month.

Johnson committed to Alabama on March 20, but listed UCF among his finalists at the time. He reaffirmed his pledge to the Crimson Tide when asked Sunday, adding that he wanted to "keep his eyes open" in case anything significant changes.

"Some schools just cut me off actually, and I'm mad about it," Johnson said. "But (UCF) is going to keep coming until the end and keep recruiting me."

Johnson (6-3, 205) heads to Tuscaloosa next weekend, followed by a trip to Auburn. The All-Region selection collected 103 tackles for Dodge County as a junior.

UCF explores QB market with Malik Washington, KaMario Taylor

UCF has made several significant changes to its quarterback room since the conclusion of the 2023 season, adding KJ Jefferson (Arkansas) and Jacurri Brown (Miami) from the transfer portal and both Riley Trujillo and EJ Colson from the high school ranks.

However, with Jefferson brought in on a one-year basis, Malzahn and his staff will explore the possibility of adding another talented dual-threat in this class. Two Elite 11 finalists made the trip to Orlando for Bounce House Weekend: Archbishop Spalding (Maryland)'s Malik Washington and Noxubee County (Mississippi)'s KaMario Taylor, currently committed to play for former UCF offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby at Mississippi State.

Knight nation what’s up? #goknights pic.twitter.com/ARBPAe5oEG

— malik washington (@malikw2025) June 2, 2024

"The last time (Malzahn) had a quarterback built like me, he went and won a national championship with Cam Newton," Washington said. "I think I fit (the offense) pretty well.

"There was a point in the presentation where he showed a clip of Cam, and then me doing the same thing."

Washington, who totaled nearly 2,300 yards of total offense with 27 TDs last fall, is one of the top uncommitted quarterbacks in the country, though there is plenty of interest in his services. He will visit Syracuse and Maryland in the weeks ahead.

Taylor (6-4, 205) put up monster numbers in helping Noxubee County reach Mississippi's 3A state championship game for the second straight year, throwing for 3,634 yards with 48 TDs and just five picks and rushing 89 times for 794 yards and 15 scores.

Both signal-callers will compete in the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles from June 18-20, the nation's premier high school quarterback showcase.

Mainland's Christian Hudson begins busy month of visits

Less than two weeks after position coach Martin and new UCF defensive coordinator Ted Roof watched him in Mainland's spring jamboree at Spruce Creek, Christian Hudson opened a busy June with an official visit in Orlando.

Hudson (6-2, 290), Volusia County's premier two-way lineman over the past two seasons, sees similar championship-level habits at UCF. He played a major role in leading Mainland to back-to-back Class 3S state title game appearances, and the school's first title in 20 years.

"A lot of discipline. (UCF) takes care of the little things, mostly," Hudson said. "They make sure everything is to a T and to a great standard. And we hold those same standards at Mainland."

#KnightVision25 #UCF #GoKnights #GKCO #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/ufF7eUEqxw

— Christian ”Hud” Hudson 3⭐️ DT (@ChrisDaGoat07) June 2, 2024

Hudson had 70 tackles as a junior in one of Florida's most feared defensive fronts, adding 27 TFLs and nine sacks. UCF likes his versatility, and coaches hope to move him around from a five-technique to a nose tackle.

Hudson will travel to Iowa State, Maryland and Iowa the next three weekends, with West Virginia and Tulane also pushing for a visit before his planned commitment date of July 6.

"This is really going to set the expectation to be very high because UCF set it very high for me," Hudson said. "I'd like to see what other schools can do to top that."

UCF pursuing another set of twins: Norland's Darryll and Mandrell Desir

UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (3)

UCF has garnered the reputation of "Twin U" over the last decade or so, following the successful recruitment and development of brothers Justin and Jordan McCray, Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin and, most recently, Demari and JaCari Henderson. Could another duo from Miami soon join the club?

Darryll (6-5, 244) and Mandrell Desir (6-4, 245) combined for 10 sacks as Norland reached the FHSAA Class 2M final. They will be a package deal for college recruiters, hoping to line up on opposite ends of the defensive line.

"We're going to be the best set (of twins)," they said.

Edge rusher appears to be a major focus this cycle for the Knights. In addition to the Desir twins, UCF brought in Pace's Tylon Lee and Buchholz's Nick Clayton this weekend, and will host Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial four-star recruit Michael Riles from June 7-9.

UCF makes pitch for Mr. Football, Cocoa wide receiver Jayvan Boggs

UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (4)

Since reopening his recruitment and decommitting from Ohio State, Cocoa wide receiver Jayvan Boggs has kept UCF at the top of his list. He was among the last athletes to leave Bounce House Weekend, and is one of the Knights' most important targets after earning Mr. Football throughout Florida with 93 receptions, 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.

"It's the hometown team," Boggs said. "They've been with me and been recruiting me for a while now, and they have never took their foot off the pedal recruiting me. It's just been a great relationship with me and all the coaches."

Hmmm 🤔

— Jayvan Boggs (@Jayvan_Boggs) June 1, 2024

Boggs (6-0, 190) said development and a family feel are the top two criteria as he starts his official visits. Missouri, Georgia and Texas remain in the running, with a decision expected July 4 for the player ranked No. 16 in the USA TODAY Florida Network's Top 100.

Prized RB commit Taevion Swint 'back and better' ahead of senior year

UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (5)

UCF's first 2025 commit, making his decision at the conclusion of the 2023 spring game, Osceola's Taevion Swint dominated in last month's spring jamboree against Edgewater and DeLand. He amassed nearly 200 yards on the ground, and scored three touchdowns across four varsity exhibition quarters.

Swint (5-10, 180) missed five games as a junior due to injury, but averaged 100.3 yards per contest upon his return.

"I'm back and better," said Swint, a high school teammate of Knights defensive linemen John Walker and Derrick Leblanc. "Last year was just a bump in the road. I've come back real strong and hard for the rest of the guys that were doubting me."

Starting running back RJ Harvey served as Swint's player host for the weekend, and he was joined by fellow prior commits Kendarius Reddick, Santonyo Isaac, Caden Piening and Demarcus Gardner. Swint perked up after learning of Blanchard's decision, and plans to assist in recruiting more offensive linemen.

He has no further official visits scheduled, but left the possibility open for going to other schools during the season.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: UCF Knights football: Blanchard commits, Autry, Johnson still targeted

UCF football recruiting: Tampa-area guard commits as Knights seek 5-star flips, quarterback help (2024)
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