While it was a punch to the gut for fans holding a smidgen a hope that rumors of Frost returning to his alma mater was incorrect — or that he’d have a change of heart — they could take solace in knowing that regardless of the outcome of the soon-to-be double-overtime game, UCF should be in the New Year’s Six picture again in 2018 — and potentially the playoff picture.
Offensively, the Knights lose five all-conference players, two on offense and three on the defense. Offensive tackle Aaron Evans is a three-year starter who powered an offense that averaged 540 yards and an FBS-high 49.4 points per game in 2017. And tight end Jordan Akins had 53 receptions and five touchdowns the last two years.
Undoubtedly, those five losses and others hurt, but UCF returns 10 more all-conference players and, as of now, will welcome the top-ranked recruiting class in the conference.
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Quarterback McKenzie Milton had a sensational sophomore season, racking up 42 total touchdowns and more than 4,000 total yards, 1,082 of which were through the air to junior receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Sophomore running back Adrian Killins Jr. added 924 total yards and 11 touchdowns, thanks in part to junior tackle Wyatt Miller and sophomore center Jordan Johnson.
Second-leading receiver Dredrick Snelson (sophomore) is also back, as are junior safety Kyle Gibson and junior corner Mike Hughes. Hughes was an all-conference selections as a defender (44 tackles, four interceptions) and return specialist (three touchdowns). And big defensive tackle Trysten Hill will be a junior after a sensational 2017 season. All-conference specialists Matthew Wright (kicker) and Mac Loudermilk (punter) also return for their senior seasons.
Not only will the new UCF head coach have the talent to run the table once again, they now have the schedule to earn serious playoff consideration. As discussed here, the Knights have North Carolina (away), Florida Atlantic (home) and Pittsburgh (home) on the non-conference schedule. It’s by no means a murderer’s row of big-time opponents but if the the top of the AAC is once again strong, their schedule will be much improved.
The departures of Frost, Griffin and others will be tough to swallow but UCF has the talent and schedule to do it all over again in 2018.