This fall, Malzahn — now the head coach at UCF — will trade packed SEC stadiums for the Group of 5. Malzahn inherits a Knights program that has been among the country’s top teams in recent years.
It is still easy to scoff at UCF, a program that has sent the likes of Brandon Marshall and Shaquill Griffin to the NFL, because they are not in a Power 5 conference. Only weeks after arriving in Florida, Malzahn is helping UCF send college football a frightening message.
Gus Malzahn is bringing his former Auburn players to UCF
In the years since the transfer portal formally launched in 2018, many college football players have used it to leave schools after a coaching change.
Some players have taken advantage of the portal to reunite with their former coaches. Florida State receiver D’Marcus Adams and defensive lineman Malcolm Lamar followed their former head coach, Willie Taggart, to Florida Atlantic last year.
A similar situation is happening a few hours north of FAU. Several of Gus Malzahn’s former players at Auburn have formally transferred to UCF in recent weeks.
Defensive lineman Big Kat Bryant — no relation to Dan “Big Cat” Katz of Barstool Sports — is the latest Tiger to become a Knight. A former top recruit, Bryant totaled 10 sacks, forced two fumbles, and returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in 49 games at Auburn.
Bryant, whose real name is Markaviest, won’t be the only ex-Tiger in Orlando, Fla., this fall. Running back Mark-Antony Richards transferred to UCF directly from Auburn, while former Tigers receiver Nate Craig-Myers — who spent 2019-20 at Colorado State — is teaming up with Malzahn again.
None have officially joined the Knights yet. All are expected to enroll in time for training camp this summer.
Malzahn keeps adding big-name talent
That isn’t always the case for a variety of reasons. Still, Gus Malzahn is putting college football on notice by bringing his former players to a rising college football powerhouse.
Big Kat Bryant, who stands 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 250 pounds, is an athletic defensive lineman capable of reaching the quarterback. Nate Craig-Myers totaled 51 catches for 791 yards and five touchdowns in his time at Auburn and Colorado State.
Then, there’s Mark-Antony Richards. Buried beneath several older players while at Auburn, Richards — the younger brother of former Miami Hurricanes wideout Ahman Richards — ran for 76 yards on 20 carries last year. Richards missed all of 2019 with a right leg injury.
Gus Malzahn and UCF will be a team worth watching in 2021
Until the College Football Playoff expands, the odds remain stacked against UCF and other Group of 5 programs.
Gus Malzahn’s presence and reputation won’t be enough to push UCF into the CFP. However, Malzahn is adding big-name players to a team that has gone a combined 41-8 from 2017-20.
Malzahn’s new home presents him with a chance to reinvent his career. Lane Kiffin parlayed two Conference USA championships at Florida Atlantic into a head coaching job with Ole Miss last year.
Now, it’s Malzahn’s turn — and with what UCF has done in recent years, the rest of college football should be afraid of what the Knights will do in 2021.