Nebraska football fans should take hope in UCF All-American numbers

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Nebraska football team’s fans should be licking their lips with the latest UCF announcement.

On Friday afternoon, the UCF Knights announced they had officially set a team FBS record. That record should have Nebraska football fans very excited.

UCF announced that they had four players from the current squad making All-American teams. That set a school record since the Knights have been playing at the FBS level.

While that would normally be good news for Scott Frost and company, it seems like it could also be very good news for Husker fans. At face value, the four players that made the list seem to indicate the Nebraska coaching staff can, at the very least, develop talent.

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football
Nebraska Cornhuskers Football /

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Defensive back Mike Hughes, quarterback McKenzie Milton, linebacker Shaquem Griffin, and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith all made All-American teams. Of those four, just one, Griffin is a senior.

When taking a longer look at those four, only Smith didn’t make leaps and bounds in his career numbers when comparing what he did before and after the arrival of Scott Frost and company.

Even when taking into account that only Milton was brought on board by the new Husker staff, it’s still interesting to see just how good these players have gotten under the former UCF staff. NU fans can only hope they’ll see the same kind of development in the next two years in Lincoln.

Cornerback Mike Hughes missed all of last year, but he came back in 2017 like gangbusters after a mediocre 2015. That season he had 10 tackles and returned three kicks. This season, he recorded 44 tackles, 11 passes broken up, four interceptions and a touchdown on defense. On special teams, he amassed 869 total return yards and had three returns for touchdowns.

Milton went from throwing for 1,983 yards, 10 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in his freshman season to throwing for 3,795 yards and 35 touchdowns in his second season. He also improved his rushing yards from 158 to 497. He also ran for a touchdown in six straight games in this, his sophomore year.

Griffin went from recording just nine tackles the year before Nebraska football coach Scott Frost got to UCF to absolutely dominating in the last two years. While he had a great year last year, his biggest leap was his first year under Frost, where he recorded 92 tackles, 11.5 sacks and an interception. He also had 20 tackles for loss.

Even Tre’Quan Smith saw improvement in at least one area. Smith has been talented since he set foot on the field for the Knights, catching 52 passes in that lost, 0-12 2015. Last year he caught 57 passes for 853 yards and five touchdowns. This season, Smith caught 54 passes for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Perhaps most interesting was Smith’s yards per catch going up from around 14 yards per grab in his career to just over 20 YPC this season.

While these improvements and accolades don’t automatically mean the Nebraska football team is going to see this kind of improvement, it could be seen as a harbinger. This coaching staff appears to know how to get players to grow and improve. That should get everyone in Lincoln, those that play and those that watch, excited.