If Shaquem Griffin wasn’t a household name before last week’s NFL Combine, he should have been.
The Central Florida linebacker and NFL Draft hopeful put up impressive numbers during the Knights’ 13-0, Peach Bowl-winning season. Griffin, who lost a hand due to a medical condition when he was 4 years old, managed 74 tackles (16.5 for loss), seven sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
In UCF’s final three games alone, he had four sacks and 27 stops.
Griffin’s profile really took off at the Combine when the 6-foot-1, 230-pound outside linebacker ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds – the fastest time for a linebacker at the event since they started digitally timing the 40 in 2003 – and did 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press using a prosthetic on his left arm, becoming the talk of the sports world overnight.
But according to new Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, Griffin may not have piled up the highlight reels, become an inspirational story around the country or put himself in position to get drafted and play in the NFL had Frost and his staff not had an open mind when they arrived in Orlando in Dec. 2015.
Of course Griffin has displayed perseverance nearly beyond imagination and has worked to overcome playing with one arm. But he also started his career at safety. As a 6-1, 205 pounder in 2015 under George O’Leary and played in 12 games but had just nine stops.
When Frost, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and the now-Husker staff arrived at UCF, they saw Griffin as a second-level player rather than a defensive back.
The same sort of full-scale reevaluation is already underway here and will continue through the spring, through Year 1 and on into the future.
“There’s going to be some guys that I think everybody’s going to know, the lead guys,” Frost said Wednesday night on the Sports Nightly radio program, “But for the most part we’re hitting the reset switch and starting over. I think that’s important. …
“With a new opportunity, new set of eyes on them, there will be some guys that surprise us. The competition is going to be open at every position and that will get the best out of everybody.”
While Frost and the coaching staff are limited in the amount they can be around the players now, they can watch workouts and be on the field with the team as long as there is no actual football being used. No doubt, coaches are taking notes on players and thinking about ways to use them, regardless of whether that includes a familiar position.
“We’re getting to know our team right now, but I’m sure there’s going to be some guys moving positions and some ways we can find to get guys on the field that are going to help us,” Frost said. “A lot of that evaluation will take place during spring ball.”