Notebook: Daniel McMillian coming on at UF
Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 4:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 4:23 p.m.
During his spring speaking tour last May, Florida coach Will Muschamp mentioned Daniel McMillian at almost every stop, saying the true freshman had a chance to start at outside linebacker in 2013.
But when the season got here several months later, McMillian was pretty much a no-show on defense, his play limited to special teams. A wrist injury set him back, but what really knocked him out of the playing picture was his inability to fully grasp the defense.
Now, a spring later, McMillian knows the defense — and is pushing for serious playing time in 2014.
“Yeah, absolutely. He'd be a guy that I'd point to as one of the most improved guys throughout spring,” UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said Thursday. “That's always been the deal for him. Just being sound assignment-wise and knowing what you're doing so you're not thinking and instead reacting.
“He's got great ability. He's a really good football player. His progression has been a little slower than others just learning and picking up the defense, which is fine, but nobody works harder at it than him.
“Throughout this spring, he's playing his best football right now. We're really proud of him, where he's at. We're happy where he's at and he'll be a contributor for us."
Durkin said senior linebacker Michael Taylor has played a role in McMillian's development.
“Mike knows the defense really well. He's been great for D Mac and some of the younger guys, because Mike is that type of guy,” Durkin said. “He's that type of player. He takes time to bring another guy along. He has spent time with Daniel off the field, too, just helping bring him along. Again, talking about a leader and a valuable guy, you can't say enough about Mike Taylor."
Tabor is not Hargreaves
While many this spring have been trying to compare true freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor to sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III, Durkin said the two five-star players have completely different styles.
“Jalen is a longer-type corner,” Durkin said. “Travaris Robinson, our DB coach, does a great job with our guys in terms of identifying the techniques that are good for them.
“Those are two different players. Both very effective. Jalen is doing a great job as a freshman. He's going to play and help us. I'm really excited about him, a guy we can go out and play with right now.
“But he's different than Vernon. They're different type of players. It's not fair to draw a comparison to the two of them. They're different, they work on different things, they're going to play corner differently for us, but they're both very effective in the way they do it.”
Durkin said Tabor isn't the only true freshman contending for serious playing time at cornerback. Duke Dawson also is in the mix.
“Jalen, and Duke Dawson as well, man, those guys we're thrilled about them. They don't look like freshmen out there right now. They look like older guys,” Durkin said.
Bullard adjusting at DT
Former starting defensive end Jonathan Bullard said he's starting to feel comfortable at defensive tackle, where he's spent the entire spring.
“I moved in last year and didn't really have the feel for it. Towards the end of the season, I got better,” he said. “All offseason I've been working at it because I know we're light there now and had a couple players out so I'd play a lot of it.
“Now I've got the hang of it and I can read things better at D-tackle like I could at end. Now it's even. To be honest, I'm trying to embrace it and enjoy it rather than last year not wanting to but knowing I had to."
'D' goes uptempo, too
Durkin said the defense is benefiting from going against UF's new uptempo offense every day in practice.
“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “You look at college football as a whole the way it's going and really our conference now, we were probably the last ones to be leaning towards (the uptempo offense). But more and more, there are teams in our conference that are doing that, that we're going to face.
“It's been great for us that way. We're seeing that every day. In the past, it's been you get to game week, all right we're changing the way we practice and we're talking about tempo, we're doing different things.
“Now, that's really kind of become the norm. Now it's going to be the flip side. We're going to have to formulate how we're going to practice against some two-back teams and power running games because we're still going to face that, too.”