UCF has struck again in Miami.
Wide receiver Dareen Owi, who helped lead Miami-Norland to an undefeated season and Class 5A State Championship, committed to UCF coaches during a home visit Thursday night.
"Coach Tim Salem has been keeping in contact with me and my family constantly," Owi said. "Today he came down with wide receivers coach Sean Beckton. He sat down with me and my head coach. We discussed what kind of role I would play, the current numbers on the roster, the kind of receivers they were looking for and things like that. All the things they spoke of really intrigued me and my coach. When we talked about it, we felt it was the right decision.
"When I got home, I discussed it with my parents and my brother. Then Coach Salem and Coach Beckton came over and I told them. I felt it was the right time to make that commitment to UCF."
Owi said there were plenty of "smiles, handshakes and high-fives" after he told them he wanted to be a Knight.
"During the home visit, when they were talking about the possibility and the reasons I should come to UCF, I let them know I had already discussed with my parents and I felt UCF is the school and where I need to be. That's how I let them know. It was great. We were just enjoying the moment."
He'll actually be the second in his family to attend UCF.
"My brother just got his master's in December," Owi said. "He's very, very excited. He is a big UCF fan. I also have family friends that have gone to UCF. I'm familiar with UCF."
One of those family friends is Cliff McCray, who just wrapped up a successful offensive line career at UCF. His younger brothers, Jordan McCray and Justin McCray, will be juniors next season.
"I know of his brothers too, but I know Cliff personally," Owi said. "He's real good friends with my brother. They were roommates at UCF. I'm real good with Cliff. He told me he loved it. It's a great team. Of course academic wise it's also great. It's really what you make it was the advice he gave me. Wherever you go, it's the same thing. You need to put in hard work."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect fills a big need for the Knights, who have been in search of a bigger receiver.
"They said all of the receivers they currently have are good, quick, fast receivers, inside slot guys, but none of those big, powerful, physical receivers that can go across the middle, get the ball at its highest point and things like that," Owi said. "They said that's what they want me to do when I get to UCF. They would like me to be on the outside, go up for the balls like on third-and-five situations, basically get the ball in traffic and drag defenders to get yardage."
Norland's offense revolved around Rivals100 running back Randy "Duke" Johnson, but when the Vikings did pass the ball it usually went to Owi, who led the team with 32 receptions for 567 yards (17.7 yards per catch). Owi caught 12 of Norland's 19 touchdown passes this season.
In the state championship game against Crawfordville Wakulla, played in Orlando at the Florida Citrus Bowl, Owi caught four passes for 69 yards.
"I would say what I really excel at is catching the ball in traffic," Owi said. "I catch the ball really well in traffic and consistently. I don't have very many drops. Sometimes high school players are afraid to go across the middle, but I'm not afraid. I like going across the middle to catch a ball and then getting positive yards."
He's not afraid to block, either.
"Our receivers coach, he stresses run blocking more than running routes and catching the ball. He says run-blocking is a big part of being a complete receiver. All those big runs our running backs have are because of the secondary blocking being done by the receivers. That's a very important part of the game. I feel like I'm a great run-blocker. Of course I can improve. Everybody can improve."
Coach Beckton, who is a UCF Hall of Famer himself, has coached some of the best receivers who have worn the Black & Gold.
"I know he's coached a lot of good receivers like Brandon Marshall, Mike Sims-Walker and Doug Gabriel. Top quality receivers who have been productive. Not even just NFL, he's coached and mentored a lot of receivers who got degrees and became successful in life."
Beckton told Owi there are some shades of Brandon Marshall in him.
"He hasn't specifically compared me to him, but he said my body type and some things like those tough third down catches are things similar to what Brandon did," Owi said.
Owi, a 4.0 student, took an official visit to Purdue this past season. He is scheduled to visit UCF on Jan. 13. He's already familiar with a few of the players, like Kemal Ishmael and Rannell Hall in addition to Cliff's twin brothers.
"I haven't seen the facilites yet, but I've seen the campus from afar," Owi said. "I haven't really explored it or gone inside the school. On my visit next week, Friday, I'm pretty sure they're going to show me around."
Another positive about UCF is their new affiliation in the BIG EAST.
"They said it will offer more TV exposure and we'll be playing bigger name teams," Owi said. "Of course there is the chance to compete for a BCS title. That's obviously intriguing."
Owi said he would "love" to earn playing time as a freshman.
"The opportunity is there," he said. "It's really up to me as long as I work hard on and off the field, do the things I'm supposed to do. I believe if I do those things, work hard, show my leadership, discipline and things like that, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to contribute at UCF."