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UCF's Scott Frost Was Savviest Hire of the Offseason

The pattern of the SEC teams in the area is a big reason why.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In college football, you can run just about any system and succeed if you have the players for it and you're a good coach. For that reason, it can be of great value to do something different than what all the programs around you do.

That reality is why UCF hiring Scott Frost was the savviest head coaching move of the offseason, and the things that SEC teams in the area have done of late make it so.

At this point, most programs above the Sun Belt and CUSA level in the southeast run some kind of "pro-style" offense. I use scare quotes there because basically everyone except Jim Harbaugh and his coaching tree run heavily spread infused offenses. There still is a divide though between the pro-style offenses that now run a lot of spread sets like Alabama does and the hyper speed, often mobile quarterback helmed, super charged spread offenses like those of Oregon and Baylor.

Alabama runs a pro-style offense by 2016 standards. So do Florida, Florida State, and Georgia with former Nick Saban assistants in charge. South Carolina has a former Saban assistant now too, though if Will Muschamp actually gives Kurt Roper as much freedom as he says he will, the Gamecocks will run something slightly more spread-y than Jimbo Fisher, Jim McElwain, and Kirby Smart do/will.

Miami (FL) hired Mark Richt, who has always been in that pro-style vein. South Florida's Willie Taggart is from the Harbaugh tree and runs his offense accordingly. The only schools within reasonable driving distance of even North Florida, much less South Florida, that run the uptempo super spreads are Auburn and Clemson, and even Auburn hasn't gone as fast as advertised in recent seasons. Georgia Tech is around too, but its flexbone is another category entirely.

So imagine you're a fast high school player in the state of Florida who wants to play in an exciting, cutting edge spread offense. Your choices lately have been either to go nearby out of state to Clemson or Auburn or to go even farther out of state to one of the Mississippi schools or Tennessee or beyond.

Now with the Frost hire, UCF is a place you can play in that kind of scheme while staying in-state. Depending on how good you are, you might still decide to go to one of those pro-style Power 5 programs anyway. But UCF isn't a bad program; it just beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago. It no longer has a verbally abusive septuagenarian who was the top reason why the UCF Athletics Association was found liable for a player's death, and instead it has a bright young guy who intends to install not just the Chip Kelly offense but the Chip Kelly do-everything-fast ethos.

I don't know how many blue chip recruits UCF will beat the local big programs for. Probably not many. But it now has a compelling story to tell to that 3-star wide receiver from Belle Glade or Pahokee who's more known for quickness than route running. That guy could go sit the bench at Florida, FSU, or Miami for a couple of years, or he could come right in and have a better shot to be able to contribute immediately at UCF. And there are tons of these guys in the Sunshine State. There will be plenty to choose from after Dabo and Gus and Butch and whoever else have gotten who they want.

Baylor built itself up on just those kinds of guys in Texas, albeit with Big 12 money coming in. Still, UCF is in better shape than pre-Art Briles Baylor was. George O'Leary, for all of his many, many terrible faults, still led the Knights to three 10+ win seasons in his last six on the job including a bowl win over Georgia in 2010, a win over Boston College in 2011, and wins over Penn State and Louisville before the BCS win in 2013. The program may have cratered last year, but it's not in the wasteland that Baylor was before Briles came aboard in 2008. Recruits know UCF as a place that can play good ball.

It may be the case that Frost isn't a good program leader. This is his first head coaching job, and you never know if a guy can hack it until he's in that position. Frost is a great kind of guy for a place like UCF to take a chance on, though, not just because of his familiarity with Chip Kelly's transformative system but also because no one else around him will be doing anything like it and it's going to appeal to recruits.

The draw of trying to hire Nick Saban Except Only Younger is obvious, but four schools in either the state of Florida or nearby states have now done it. Heck, Florida has done it twice in a row. Miami and USF may not have Saban guys, but they don't have Chip Kelly-like guys either. These hires have created a space for someone in the region to be the program that picks up the offensive recruits who are already tuned for super spread schemes that Clemson, Auburn, and Tennessee miss or pass on.

The SEC East's obsession with importing Sabanball and coincidentally not-dissimilar hires at non-SEC schools in Florida opened the door for a disruptor to thrive, and UCF with its hire of Scott Frost made a play to be that disruptor. It was the savviest hire of the offseason.