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UCF’s Griffin continues quest to silence critics/be in NFL at Senior Bowl

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been privy living in Florida to one of the great college football and now, potentially, NFL Draft stories of the past few years with LB Shaquem Griffin of UCF. Now, the NFL and fans all over the country are getting more familiar with him and his chances starting with the Senior Bowl this week.

Griffin, who was one of the leaders of the Knights unbeaten 2017 season, already showed on the field at the Peach Bowl against Auburn, that he belongs in the conversation for playing at the next level. He repeatedly created problems for QB Jarett Stidham and the Tigers offense (above) with his ability to beat pass blockers for pressure and sacks. And, he showed that he could stay with backs out of the backfield, too.

The best part of the story is that Griffin, who’s twin brother Shaquill was drafted in the third round by the Seahawks and saw significant playing time last year, had to have his left hand amputated at age four due to rare genetic condition.

And some are doubting what he can do, because of that. They are wrong to doubt.

Get ready to be impressed with Griffin, not only from his game tape, but with how he handles himself, like in this interview after Tuesday’s initial practice the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

The NFL Network crew covering the practices/drills wanted to discuss several subjects about his future with him.

Love the answer on not being invited to the NFL Combine next month, and critics doubting him, etc.: “I got a surprise for you.”

Also, you have to love the humility that he shows, even when there are critics.

Critics who like to gloss over the fact that Griffin tallied 100 solo tackles and 18.5 sacks his last two seasons with the Knights.

And, as for being able to play at the next level? Analysts Charles Davis, who’s worked NFL Games for Fox for over 10 years, and Mike Mayock, who is the NFL Network’s top draft analyst and also a TV and radio game analyst every week in the league, both sung Griffin’s praises repeatedly on their broadcast Tuesday.

Mayock at one point laid out the Griffin can absolutely be on the roster in a multi-faceted role of playing edge rushing linebacker and maybe some safety, which he’s done at UCF, but also as a quality special teams player.

We will also see, if the NFL changes its mind and sends him a combine invite. Even if they don’t, every team in the league is there with him this week in Mobile, and that’s good enough in the interview and fact finding process , too.

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UCF Knights

Groundwork laid for UCF QB McKenzie Milton to be part of AAF Spring league?

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

He has yet to take the practice field to get ready for his junior season with UCF, but an interesting scenario has already come up involving the Knights rising star quarterback McKenzie Milton.

First, it’s understood that if Milton is healthy and plays anything like his stellar 2017 in the upcoming season, he will be under Heisman Trophy consideration. In fact, we wrote about UCF already cranking up the hype for Milton last month.

And, if he and the Knights enjoy great success, then Milton would hope to get opportunity in the winter and eventually the Spring, with the NFL and their draft. However, Milton is listed at 5’11 185lbs., and that’s not likely big enough to get a strong look at signal caller at that next level.

Unless, that “next level” of pro football might be the newly formed Allliance of American Football spring league that begins play in February.

With a franchise in Orlando.

Coached by, Steve Spurrier.

And, playing in Milton’s college venue, Spectrum Stadium, on the UCF campus.

The AAF has already announced all of its eight franchises for year one, the coaches, and the GM’s. And, has now begun to lay out it’s tryouts and how its player allocation will be done. Not surprisingly, the new league will emphasize having regions dictate who likely plays where. This makes sense from a marketing and ticket sales standpoint.

And Milton fits that for Orlando and the AAF perfectly.

Oh, and look at what we have here?

Spurrier and Milton were together at an Orlando radio station event on Wednesday and met for the first time:

Spurrier, who is one of the great offensive play-calling minds in college football history, is in obvious need of a trigger man for his offense.

Again, it’s far fetched, but Milton, or someone like him, would be perfect as a dual threat QB to run the “Head Ball Coach’s” plays. Milton, who was the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, and had 46 combined throwing and running TDs in 13 games last year.

Spurrier made it no secret last month that the Orlando franchise would entertain trying to sign fellow Gators legend QB Tim Tebow, too. However, Tebow is still progressing for the Mets in Double-A and went one for four in the Eastern League All-Star game Wednesday night. He will likely get a chance to play for New York in September. He also has his well paying television job with the SEC Network, too.

And, there are other quarterbacks that Spurrier could go to and several may have immediate interest in their training camps this fall.

Yet, a McKenzie Milton-Steve Spurrier marriage would very intriguing.

And, very sellable for the AAF, too.

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UCF Knights

Former UCF kicker De la Haye scored victory in Federal Court Tuesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t the final outcome. However, former UCF kicker Donald De la Haye and his lawyers got a large victory in their First Amendment lawsuit against UCF, when the judge denied the school’s motion to dismiss in a ruling released Tuesday.

Siding with De la Haye, who had his scholarship revoked last August when he refused to stop accepting Youtube money for his UCF football related content, Senior District Judge Anne Conway ruled that De la Haye can proceed with his claim against the school.

Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel had more on the ruling:

Conway heard arguments 29 days ago in Orlando, including UCF trying to get the lawsuit stopped on the grounds that it’s not a First Amendment issue.

One of De la Haye’s lawyers, John Riches commented to the Sentinel after the ruling,

“We hope that today’s decision denying UCF’s attempt to dismiss this case will be a step toward protecting Donald’s rights and ensuring all college student-athletes’ free speech rights are protected.”

As we wrote at the time of the arguments, De la Haye is not seeking monetary damages at this time. Rather, he wants his scholarship re-instated and to kick for the Knights this season. He was unable to afford walking on to the team last year.

As Green reported Tuesday, UCF had not commented on losing this significant phase and whether they intend to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

The judge did grant the school’s dismissal of the claim that De la Haye’s 14th Amendment “Due Process” rights had been violated. De la Haye had been given able warning about taking down the Youtube channel, if he would not stop posting video content that included UCF footabll related activities for his own financial gain.

The school also spent time negotiating options with the NCAA that included him being allowed to stay on scholarship and keep the channel, as long as the school football related content stopped. They obviously successfully argued their opposition to the due process claim to the court.

Most importantly, this is not final victory for De la Haye, he will either have to get a settlement from the school to get re-instated or win a judgement on the merits of his case from the court later.

The problem is, with fall practice beginning later this month, the clock is ticking on him winning outright and settlement is likely De la Haye’s best hope.

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UCF Knights

American Athletic Conference wants fan vote for “Fifth Anniversary” team

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Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

Granted, the American Athletic Conference has not been around that long, but still, there have been some memorable teams, players and moments.

And now, the AAC wants the fans to get involved in balloting for a “Fifth Anniversary Team.” On Monday the conference laid out the voting parameters and the nominees on their official website:

From a portion of the AAC release:

“The American will name its Fifth Anniversary Team July 24 at the conference’s annual Summer Kickoff and Media Days in Newport, Rhode Island.

The fan balloting will be one of three components that will determine the team, along with votes from the 12 football-playing schools and the local and national media that covers The American.”

The release then spelled out some interesting names for the voting and we’ll focus mainly on the Bulls and Knights.

This includes a tough call at quarterback, where only two names can be chosen from the likes of UCF’s Blake Bortles and McKenzie Milton, plus USF’s Quinton Flowers, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Kennan Reynolds of Navy, Greg Ward of Houston and Paxton Lynch of Memphis.

In the cases of Bortles, Milton, Bridgewater and Ward, they all won the conference title and then, a “New Year’s Six” bowl game upset. Flowers and Reynolds are two tremendous statistical dual threat QB’s and Lynch had two tremendous seasons for the Tigers, as well.

Not an easy call.

At running back, USF’s all time leading running back rusher, Marlon Mack and UCF’s Storm Johnson, who ran for 1,300 yards in their magical Fiesta Bowl season of 2013 headline the AAC’s list.

Interesting that UCF’s Breshard Perriman is the only Knight or Bull on the receiver ballot.

Meanwhile, the defensive line has names like USF’s Aaron Lynch, and UCF’s Jamiyus Pittman make the nominees, and at linebacker, the Bulls Auggie Sanchez, a three time all AAC performer, is on the list. Also there is the “feel good” story in the history of the conference in Shaquem Griffin, who was AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and helped lead the Knights to their unbeaten Peach Bowl wining season last year.

(No. They aren’t “National Champions.)

Players like UCF DB Mike Hughes, USF’s Deatrick Nichols, and Knights safety Clayton Geathers, a two time all conference selection are par of the secondary balloting.

And finally, USF’s Emilo Nadelman is battling for the top place kicker honors, too.

The fan portion of the voting will continue through July 13th.

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