4-STAR SURPRISE: Lake Mary defensive back Braeden Marshall commits to UCF

Chris Boyle
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
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Lake Mary cornerback Braeden Marshall committed to UCF on Saturday night, choosing the Knights over Nebraska, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin.

Surprise, surprise.

Lake Mary four-star defensive back Braeden Marshall committed to UCF on Saturday night, joining forces with twins Andrew and Michael Harris from neighboring Lake Brantley in the Knights' suddenly surging recruiting class.

A week earlier, Marshall trimmed his list of suitors on social media down to Nebraska, North Carolina and Wisconsin. He explained it was, instead, a tactic to keep people guessing.

"I just wanted to have fun with it and fool some people," Marshall said in a phone interview. "I felt like it was going to shock a lot of people.

"People may not understand why it's best for me, but UCF has a future ahead of them with a great coach. …  Gus Malzahn has preached recruiting the 'State' of Orlando. We're all on board with it."

Though UCF is technically in Orlando and eastern Orange County, Seminole County is almost literally a Hail Mary's throw from FBC Mortgage Stadium. In securing Marshall's commitment, Malzahn's staff managed to keep three of the county's elite talents home.

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According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Marshall is the No. 400 overall recruit in the country. He's ranked 80th among all athletes in Florida, and 40th for cornerbacks.

The twins' commitment, in particular, caught Marshall's attention earlier this month.

"It will be crazy playing with them. It gives me the chills just talking about it," he said. "After they committed, I kind of felt like it was something I would have to think about. Coach Malzahn, T-Will (defensive coordinator Travis Williams), Coach Addi (defensive backs coach Addison Williams) told me this really is the future of college football."

Another major factor, Marshall said, is the program's impending move into the Big 12 Conference. The Knights officially join the league on July 1, 2023.

"From a competition standpoint, it's big playing top-tier programs," Marshall said. It's going to make more people want to come to the games, and I feel like it's going to be great for the future of UCF."

Marshall took an official visit during Bounce House Weekend on June 3, and returned Tuesday for the Knight Splash pool party. He trained several times this summer at the school's indoor fieldhouse with former UCF defensive back Drico Johnson as well as a handful of players on the current roster.

"He's a leader, a motivator, somebody you can definitely depend on," Johnson said. "You don't have to worry about him being late or slacking on the field. I've trained a lot of athletes around here over the last few years, and he's got to be one of the best kids I've worked with.

"They're going to love the kind of person they are getting — serious in the classroom, serious on the field."

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Marshall is expected to be deployed as a slot corner and safety within Travis Williams' defensive scheme. North Carolina, Marshall's other true finalist, viewed him more exclusively as a slot corner, he said.

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