John Denton's Knights Insider: Time to Fill Bright House Networks Stadium

Feb. 14, 2011

="" alt="Knight Head" border="0" class="imported"> Read John Denton's Knights Insider | ="" alt="Twitter Logo" border="0" class="imported">Follow us on Twitter | ="" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" class="imported">Get social with the Knights on Facebook

By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - For years, the tag of ``Sleeping Giant'' was always attached to the UCF's blossoming football program. Part of the distinction was flattering because it spoke to the Knights' massive potential, but another aspect of it was unbecoming because it addressed the unfulfilled promise.

But these days, the giant at UCF is not only no longer sleeping, but it is storming the city, letting out a roar that can be heard nationally and is crushing everything in its path.

UCF's football program just wrapped up the finest season in school history and followed it up with a recruiting haul that should make several more highly successful seasons a reasonable expectation. The football program has never been more relevant on a national stage, and the belief now is that last season's success is just the tip of the iceberg for the Knights.

With that in mind, now is the time for fans to get on board with a program that is clearly headed for great things in the very near future. UCF's administration is hoping to push its average attendance for next season to well above 40,000 fans a game and hopefully fill Bright House Networks Stadium to full capacity several times. And UCF is making it easier than ever for new fans to jump on the Knights' bandwagon, formulating a GKC Young Alumni section for newcomers who want to start following the program.

The home slate at Bright House Networks Stadium is an appealing one what with the season-opener at home (against Charleston Southern), a showdown against ACC power Boston College and games against top Conference USA rivals Marshall, Memphis, Tulsa and UTEP.

The Knights electrified the fanbase last season with a campaign that will go down as the finest in school history. First, the Knights climbed into the national rankings for the first time in school history. UCF ultimately won the Conference USA crown and then beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl for the school's first-ever bowl victory.

The beating of the Bulldogs announced to the rest of the college football world that the Knights are an emerging national power and one that's here to stay for years to come.

UCF then backed up its successful season by carrying its momentum over into the offseason. A year after landing a recruiting class considered to be the best in school history - one that included star quarterback Jeff Godfrey - the Knights came back with an even more impressive class.

The Knights nabbed top defensive end, Toby Jackson, in their initial recruiting haul and the Georgia native is already enrolled in school and will be available for spring practice. UCF then pulled off a tremendous coup by getting four-star linebacker Leilon Willingham and three-star wide receiver Rayshon Williams. What made the signings most significant was that the Denver duo chose UCF over BCS-affiliated schools such as Michigan, Colorado, Arizona State and Washington.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, veteran coach George O'Leary convinced four-star quarterback, DaMarcus Smith, to pass up schools near his Louisville, Ky., home and play for the Knights. With Godfrey, local standout Blake Bortles and Smith on the roster, the Knights should be set at quarterback for years to come.

The work in recruiting helped the Knights finish 39th overall in the Rivals.com national recruiting rankings, allowing UCF to crack the top 40 in the ratings for the first time in school history. With TCU and Utah off to new conferences next season, UCF was the highest-rated non-BCS school in the recruiting rankings.

With the greatest season in school history in the books and the greatest haul in recruiting on the way to campus for next fall, clearly UCF's ``Sleeping Giant'' is awake and hungry for more success. UCF is to the point now where its more about reloading instead of rebuilding. The offense for next season is stacked already with Godfrey, C-USA Championship Game and Liberty Bowl MVP Latavius Murray, an influx of talented young linemen and a deep core of receivers back again. O'Leary addressed UCF's needs along the front seven in recruiting and defensive backs Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael are loaded with star potential.

All that is missing now is you, the fan who has yet to jump on board of the UCF bandwagon. The Knights have already flexed their considerable muscles on the field, racking up championships and putting elite-level players on the field.

Now, it's up to UCF's growing fanbase to do the same and fill Bright House Networks Stadium next season with raucous crowds fitting of a nationally ranked, championship-contending team deserves. And it's time for this school to prove to BCS conferences looking to expand - namely the Big East - that UCF should be a no-brainer selection because of the power of its football team and energy of its fanbase.

Yes, the ``Sleeping Giant'' is finally awake, breathing fire and ready to crush all foes in its path. And now the giant that is UCF football needs everyone's support to come along for the ride.

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.