UCF's Scott Frost: Orlando is state's "best college town"
Eleven of the American Athletic Conference's 12 football coaches participated in Wednesday's annual spring teleconference (Charlie Strong had a previously planned meeting he couldn't miss). Here are some of the more significant items to emerge:
* UCF second-year coach Scott Frost took a not-so-subtle jab at those who might have underestimated his staff's recruiting chops. Only 16 months after the Knights' 0-12 debacle came to a merciful end, Frost's staff hauled in a 2017 signing class deemed the Group of Five's best by Rivals and 247Sports.
"We don't put much stock in ranking, but I think as a coaching staff, we spent a lot of time listening to people talk about how recruiting in Florida was gonna be tough with (coaching) changes at USF and FAU and FIU, and they never mentioned us," Frost said.
"And I think that made our coaching staff happy to turn out the type of recruiting class that we did. We have the best city in Florida to sell, we have the best campus in Florida to sell and the best university in Florida to sell, and I think that differentiates us."
When asked a follow-up question, Frost threw in this polarizing proclamation: "Orlando's the best college town in this state."
* With veteran Matt Davis -- who tore his ACL in the 2016 opener -- opting for the NFL Draft instead of trying for a sixth season, SMU has an intriguing quarterback derby raging.
Redshirt sophomore Ben Hicks, who progressed nicely down the stretch after being thrust into action, appears to have a slight lead over touted juco transfer D.J. Gillins (a former Wisconsin signee) and Arkansas transfer Rafe Peavey, who sat out the '16 season.
"I thought coming out of spring, definitely the experience that Ben had during the season kept him at the top, but Rafe made a big push as spring went," Coach Chad Morris said. "Coming into the fall, I think there's gonna be a great battle going on, and I'm excited to see it. "
* While practically every Group of Five employee (except Northern Illinois AD Sean Frazier) loathes the idea of a separate G5 playoff, arguably no one has explained their opposition to the idea more eloquently than Navy's Ken Niumatalolo.
"If you go to the Olympics, you don't set out to win the bronze medal or get a consolation prize," Niumatalolo said. "I mean, you're trying to compete with the best.
"If you don't win, you don't win. I think sometimes we've gone into an age in our society where everybody has to get a prize, and everybody has to get rewarded. This isn't elementary flag football, not everybody gets a prize."
* Barring something unforeseen, Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen will be the heir to Houston dual-threat dynamo Greg Ward Jr. in 2017. Allen took all the snaps in spring practice while veteran Cougars backup Kyle Postma (foot) and D'Eriq King (knee) battled injuries.
Allen led the Aggies to a 5-0 start in 2015 before tossing three pick-sixes in a loss to Alabama. He and the Cougars come to Tampa on Nov. 4.
"Kyle got all the reps in the spring, so going into fall camp it's important to me -- having been in that situation as a player - that (the other two) get an opportunity to compete for that spot," new Cougars coach Major Applewhite said.
"But they all know we're gonna have to make a decision somewhere fairly soon in camp and have a starter and get ready for the season."
* When asked about the impending early signing date for football, Connecticut coach Randy Edsall basically echoed the sentiment of many of his league peers.
"You'll find out if these offers are really real that are being offered by people," said Edsall, beginning his second tenure at UConn after coaching the Huskies from 1999-2010.
"And it's gonna be interesting to see how many young men that have offers that want to commit and sign paperwork -- if schools will allow them to do that. And how many will be told that you'll have to wait until February. So I think that was something that was needed to do."
* How's this for bizarre: New Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell -- Columbus native and former Ohio State player and coach -- never previously had the Cincinnati area as a recruiting assignment. Being an Ohio lifer, however, he already had relationships with many of the local prep coaches.
* Navy junior QB Zach Abey, who stepped in late in 2016 when Newsome High alumnus Will Worth went down, will engineer the Midshipmen's triple-option behind a seasoned offensive line. The Navy depth chart (as of March 20) features three senior and two junior starters up front, anchored by 294-pound RG Evan Martin.