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How did new UCF coach Gus Malzahn recruit Florida while he was at Auburn?

Jon Santucci
Treasure Coast Newspapers
Gus Malzahn introduced as the UCF football coach on Feb. 15, 2021.

Gus Malzahn is the new football coach at UCF, and he comes into the job with a lot of experience — and an impressive track record — recruiting Florida athletes.

"He's very real and he speaks the truth," Jensen Beach High School coach Tim Caffey said of Malzahn, who recruited multiple Jensen Beach players during his time at Auburn. "Everything he said was truthful, everything he talked about was truthful. He made you feel like — and made Jamien (Sherwood) feel like — Auburn was home for him and Jamien loved it as soon as he spoke to coach Malzahn.

"I think he’s going to probably be one of the best recruiters in the state. He’s going to come in with a SEC mentality. Coaches like Malzahn, (Alabama coach) Saban, they preach making the team successful. He preaches, 'I know you’re a great player, but let’s create a great program,' and he gets guys to buy into it. He’s a people-person."

More:Central Florida hires former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn

More:Which FBS programs did the best job of recruiting Florida talent in 2020-21?

During his eight seasons at Auburn, Malzahn recruited Alabama, Florida and Georgia more than any other states.

It would be stunning to see Malzahn sign a class like UCF’s most recent class, which included only five players from Florida.

Here’s a look at how Malzahn recruited Florida during his time at Auburn.

2013: Malzahn’s first recruiting class had four players from Florida, including wide receivers Tony Stevens (No. 23 recruit in Florida) and Dominic Walker from Orlando-Evans. Stevens, a U.S. Army All-American, made seven starts and caught 50 passes at Auburn, but the biggest impact was made by Marcus Davis (Delray Beach-American Heritage), who caught 83 career passes and was a solid special teams contributor for the Tigers.

2014: Malzahn signed only two Florida recruits — Fort Lauderdale-University four-star quarterback Sean White and Jacksonville-First Coast DE Raashed Kennion. White (No. 23 recruit in Florida) made 16 starts in two seasons before being replaced by Jarrett Stidham in 2017.

Armwood High School defensive end Byron Cowart talks to ESPN about his decision to go to Auburn on National Signing Day on Feb. 4, 2015, in Seffner, Fla.

2015 was a key year, with Cowart and Davis

2015: Malzahn signed eight Florida recruits in 2015, which was his biggest single-year haul from the Sunshine State. The signature recruit of the class — and of Malzahn’s tenure at Auburn — was Seffner-Armwood DE Bryon Cowart, ranked by 247Sports as the the program's biggest signee since 2000. Cowart didn’t make a big impact for the Tigers, but this was an strong class with CB Carlton Davis (Miami Norland CB), WR Ryan Davis and LB Jeff Holland. Carlton Davis was a three-year starter who was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2018, Ryan Davis (St. Petersburg-Lakewood) holds the program record with 178 receptions and LB Jeff Holland (Jacksonville-Trinity Christian) was an All-American in 2017.

Auburn offensive lineman Tashawn Manning (56) looks for a block at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Auburn defeated Tennessee 30-17.

2016: Malzahn’s fourth recruiting class had six high school signees from Florida. The class included a trio of wide receivers, led by Tampa Catholic four-star Nate Craig-Myers (No. 6 recruit in Florida) and Niceville four-star Eli Stove (No. 20 recruit in Florida). Stove caught more than 130 passes at Auburn and Tashawn Manning (Apopka-Wekiva) started at left guard for the Tigers in the fall.

2017: Malzahn signed just three Florida recruits in 2017, led by Navarre OL Nick Brahms (No. 27 recruit in Florida). Brahms, a center, is a multi-year starter for the Tigers.

Auburn defensive back Jamien Sherwood (20) celebrates after hitting Texas A&M tight end Jalen Wydermyer (85) to cause and incompletion at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Texas A&M defeated Auburn 31-20.

2018: Another strong class from Florida for Malzahn with four high school signees from Florida. Jacksonville-Bartram Trail QB Joey Gatewood (No. 9 recruit in Florida) was the headliner, but Plantation-American Heritage WR Anthony Schwartz and Jensen Beach S Jamien Sherwood both became impact starters.

2019: Malzahn’s second-to-last class at Auburn was a mixed bag. He signed four players from Florida, including Wellington ATH Mark-Antony Richards (No. 12 recruit in Florida) and Sebring RB D.J. Williams. That was the good news. The bad news is that none of the four are still with the program.

2020: Malzahn’s final class at Auburn had a trio of Florida prospects. Rockledge DB Ladarius Tennison (No. 25 recruit in Florida) played in all 11 games and made two starts as a true freshman in 2020.

Note: Overall state recruiting rankings are from 247Sports' composite rankings