UF’s Muschamp awards scholarships
Published: Friday, August 22, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 22, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
Florida coach Will Muschamp had a chance to enjoy one of his favorite moments Friday after practice, awarding scholarships to two walk-on players in front of the rest of the team.
The scholarships went to junior wide receiver Michael McNeely and senior place-kicker Frankie Velez.
“We had two available scholarships. Both of those guys will contribute to our football team,” Muschamp said. “Mike has been a fantastic special teams player and just a wonderful young man and has done everything we've asked him to do. He will be a huge contributor on special teams.
“Frankie is still in competition for field goal kicking duties and extra point duties and I think he has done a fantastic job in camp and has been here for five years and done everything we've asked him to do as far as those things. Plugging in last year. Both of those guys very well rewarded and I'm happy for both of those guys.”
Muschamp knows exactly how McNeely and Velez are feeling after being awarded scholarships. Muschamp was a walk-on at Georgia who also earned one.
“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” Muschamp said. “I earned a scholarship when I went to school and I’ll never forget the feeling when my coach, Ray Goff, walked up to me and said you earned your scholarship. That means you have now gained the respect of your staff and your teammates, not that you didn’t have it before. But now you’re recognized as one of the guys.
“And that’s why walk-ons are so important to me. They’re treated no different than a scholarship player. They’re not going to get as many turns and opportunities because obviously we have invested ourselves into some of these scholarship players that we feel like may be further along.
“But we’re not always right, either. So there’s nothing better than that feeling of seeing that today and being able to do that on the field with Frankie and Mike. They’re two very (deserving) young men.”
Unlike a year ago, the Gators are heading into their opener close to 100 percent healthy.
Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe (high ankle sprain) is expected back Monday and safety Marcus Maye (hamstring) should be back by Tuesday or Wednesday, Muschamp said.
“We only had two soft-tissue issues in all of camp. That’s outstanding,” Muschamp said. “That’s the best I’ve been around, as opposed to last year. That tells you we’re training the right way.”
Muschamp likes his ‘D’
Muschamp said the only question mark on the defense is in the secondary, where the staff still needs to name starters to go along with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal.
“Pretty much,” Muschamp said. “At linebacker we’re pretty settled. We can roll those four (Mike Taylor, Jarrad Davis, Neiron Ball and Antonio Morrison) in there at any time. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in Daniel McMillian and Alex Anzalone. Those guys can be dependable guys for us.
“I feel very comfortable right now with Jay-nard Bostwick, Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley, how those three guys have come along (at tackle). I’ve always had confidence in Bryan Cox (at end). I think Alex McCalister has earned a lot of confidence, so what was maybe a question mark going into camp (on the defensive line), those guys lined up and tried to play and communicate on the field.
“They’ve been in our program, they understand the expectation how we need to play on defense here. I feel good about us continuing to build that depth, along with the young guys.”
Muschamp said three true freshmen also are in the mix for playing time — ends Gerald Willis and Taven Bryan and tackle Khairi Clark.
“Gerald Willis is going to play. How much, I don’t know right now,” Muschamp said. “Assignment-wise, he needs to be on top of things in what we’re trying to do and the communication of that. You compile all those things for a true freshman, they all handle it differently. We will certainly be watching him very closely.
“We haven’t ruled out Khairi Clark playing at this time. Taven Bryan is a guy that is going to figure into that. Where’s he going to figure in? We do have some question marks to iron out up front, but very settled at linebacker and two positions in the secondary.”
Muschamp said the defense will be held to its usual high standard.
“Absolutely. We’ll play well,” he said. “I think that you need to be strong up the middle. We have two senior defensive tackles that I think will play well. I think we have four linebackers that are very strong. I think we have the ability at the safety position to be fine.
“I feel like the key ingredients of having a dominating pass rusher in Dante Fowler and dominating cover guy in Vernon Hargreaves. So, you have the ingredients of what you want, in my opinion. Now we’ve got to go do it. Talk is cheap. Kind of like the players, I told them, ‘Just shut up and go play’. Let’s shut up and go coach.”
Muschamp said starting quarterback Jeff Driskel has done an excellent job taking care of the football and avoiding turnovers in camp.
“He’s been very good with the ball. I don’t think any team periods, we’ve had a turnover with Jeff,” he said. “I think there may have been one in a 1-on-1 on a deflected pass, so he’s been very good with the ball and making good decisions.”
This, that and the other
Muschamp said Virginia transfer Jake McGee and senior Clay Burton have emerged as the top two tight ends. “They have both distanced themselves at tight end a little,” Muschamp said. … Muschamp said as of this time he does not anticipate any players being suspended from the opener. “No, we’ll be fine. No, I’ll address anything at the appropriate time. But not right now,” he said.