The UCF Knights have had their best (and only undefeated) regular season in school history. The Knights still have to play Memphis on Saturday for the ultimate conference honor – a championship. But yesterday the AAC’s conference postseason awards came out and UCF cleaned up. The AAC head coaches (that’s who votes here, and they can’t pick their own guys) have obviously been extremely impressed by UCF this year. As well they should be.
Start with the obvious – Scott Frost is the conference Coach of the Year. He was a unanimous selection, and it’s easy to understand why. The Knights are one of only two undefeated teams in FBS and if they keep it up, this would be the best year in program history.
UCF is the only school to have twice had head coaches win Coach of the Year outright (O’Leary previously won in 2013). While Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo has won twice, he shared the honor with Tom Herman in 2015.
McKenzie Milton was chosen as the conference Offensive Player of the Year, which is a special achievement when you consider that there were other impressive possible choices here like Memphis’s Riley Ferguson. The Knights are now the only program to have twice had players win Offensive Player of the Year (Blake Bortles won in 2013).
And while UCF didn’t win the AAC Team Academic award this time around, it’s interesting that we’re five years in and still only two schools have claimed the honor. UCF won the first two, and Cincinnati has now taken the last three.
The Knights had a league record nine players named first team all-conference, and also wound up with a league record sixteen all-conference players in total (all either first or second team; no Knights player received honorable mention).
The UCF first teamers are OT Aaron Evans, C Jordan Johnson, TE Jordan Akins, QB McKenzie Milton, RB Adrian Killins, DL Jamiyus Pittman, LB Shaquem Griffin (a unanimous selection), CB Mike Hughes, and S Kyle Gibson.
The second team selections are WR Tre’Quan Smith, OT Wyatt Miller, DL Trysten Hill, LB Chequan Burkett, K Matthew Wright, P Mac Loudermilk, and Mike Hughes (again, but this time in his role as kick returner).
Keep in mind when we consider how good this team could be next year that only four of these players -- Evans, Pittman, Griffin, and Burkett -- are seniors. Though of those with a year of eligibility left, Smith, Akins, and Hughes could decide to try their luck with the NFL.
Tre’Quan Smith on the second team may be surprising to some, but I view it as understandable given the likely thought process of the coaches who vote here. The UCF offense distributes the ball to many playmakers and that balance has kept Smith’s stats from being overly gaudy. Many of the things he does – tremendous blocking, spectacular catches, unwavering effort – don’t appear on the box score. His talent and skill are undeniable and I view him as the most NFL-ready of any UCF player.
The only real disappointment is not seeing Pat Jasinski get a nod for any of the all-conference teams. Not to take anything away from Chequan Burkett (who has been a UCF favorite here at UDD since he was one of the few bright spots for the Knights in 2015), but I would have thought Jasinski more likely to get the second team recognition. Jasinski has the most tackles of anyone on this team (by a substantial margin) with 83 and the third most tackles for loss (6) after Shaquem Griffin (8 TFL) and Tony Guerad (7 TFL).