New UCF coach Gus Malzahn diligently recruited the state of Florida during his eight-year run at Auburn and that won’t change now that he’s stationed in Orlando. In each recruiting cycle, the Tigers signed at least one four-star prospect from that state and in most years, more than just one.
Here’s a look at the top-five highest-ranked prospects Malzahn signed to Auburn from the state of Florida as he gets going with the Knights, offering a glimpse into what he can do at UCF with in-state recruiting.
A major recruiting win for Malzahn and his staff, Cowart picked Auburn over Florida on National Signing Day but the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2015 class struggled to find his way with the Tigers. In two seasons, the former five-star defensive end from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood played in 14 games but had only 12 tackles. A dominant, physical force at the high school level that looked like a sure thing, Cowart never caught on at Auburn. He transferred to junior college and then to Maryland where he finished with 38 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions before going pro. Cowart was a fifth-round pick of the New England Patriots.
A physical, filled-out receiver who could muscle smaller cornerbacks, Malzahn went to Tampa (Fla.) Tampa Catholic for Craig-Myers and it was a battle to keep his commitment. Once a five-star receiver who ended up as a high four-star, Craig-Myers committed to Auburn, then backed off that pledge and then rejoined the recruiting class, picking the Tigers over North Carolina and many others. But he never made a major impact on The Plains as he finished his Auburn career with 22 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns over three seasons. He has since transferred to Colorado State and is expected back for the 2021 season.
On National Signing Day, Davis picked Auburn over Florida in another recruiting battleground victory for Malzahn and the four-star from St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood went on to be a big contributor in the Tigers’ passing attack. At just 5-foot-9, Davis finished his Auburn career with 178 catches for 1,555 yards and seven touchdowns. He went undrafted but was with the New England Patriots this past season.
Many expected Florida State to land Gatewood’s commitment but after a visit to Auburn, the then-sophomore in high school committed to the Tigers and didn’t look back. The four-star quarterback from Jacksonville (Fla.) Bartram Trail waited his turn at Auburn but he could not beat out former five-star QB Bo Nix for the starting job and Gatewood decided to transfer to Kentucky. He played sparingly this past season but could be in line for the starting job heading into 2021.
In the spring before his senior season, Stove committed to Auburn over Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State and that decision gave Malzahn another big-time Florida prospect in his wide receiver arsenal. The Niceville, Fla., standout who was ranked No. 10 at receiver in the 2016 class finished his college career this past season with 136 catches for 1,186 yards but only six touchdowns. He decided to leave early with a few other top Auburn receivers to prepare for the NFL Draft.