Freshman Safety Looking Forward To Facing UF

Safety Michael McNeil talks about the challenge of facing the explosive Florida Gators this weekend at Florida Field.

Auburn, Ala.--Facing an offensive juggernaut this weekend when the Tigers travel to Gainesville to face the fourth-ranked Florida Gators, getting healthy on defense is something Auburn needed desperately. One of the players banged up last week was true freshman safety Michael McNeil but he says that he'll be ready to go this Saturday night after getting cleared by team doctors earlier this week.

"It's feeling good and getting better every day," McNeil says. "It was bothering me at first because of the swelling, how swollen it was. I have been getting treatment three times a day, getting up at five o'clock in the morning, so the healing process has been fast."

Injured last Thursday in practice while covering a kickoff, McNeil says he didn't think the injury was too severe, but it did hamper his play against New Mexico State to some extent.

"I didn't have full range of motion with my knee so I couldn't get up to top speed," McNeil says. "I was still able to perform.

"It's feeling a lot better," McNeil says. "It's still not 100 percent but it's feeling a lot better."

That is huge for an Auburn defense that is expected to get sophomore linebacker Tray Blackmon back for the first time since the season opener against Kansas State and fellow linebacker Chris Evans able to go but a little banged up with a strained knee. Because of still limited depth at the position senior Eric Brock is getting work at both safety and linebacker.

That means that the depth at safety could be limited, forcing McNeil into more action against the Gators. He says that while he hasn't played a road game in the SEC before, he likes playing in loud environments and has a little idea of what to expect in The Swamp.

"I'm really looking forward to it," McNeil says. "I have been to like three games in The Swamp so I already know how the atmosphere is. I look forward to experiencing it on the field because I like playing in front of big crowds like that, especially when they're against you... I enjoy a hostile environment. It makes you elevate your level of play."

While Tim Tebow is the golden boy of Florida football at the moment, the biggest threat for the Gators may be sophomore receiver/running back Percy Harvin. This season Harvin is second on the team with 491 all-purpose yards and is averaging 122.8 yards per game.

He has rushed for 155 yards on just 20 carries while adding 21 receptions for 336 yards. He already had 583 rushing yards in his Florida career, the most by a wide receiver in school history. McNeil says he's definitely a player Auburn will have to keep an eye on.

"Percy is a very versatile player," McNeil says. "They line him up in the slot, line him up at quarterback, at running back. He's going to touch the ball no matter what. We have to contain him. He's a fast, shifty guy. You're not going to just run into him and knock him down. You have to wrap him up. We're going to prepare for him and be ready."

Harvin and Tebow are far from the only players on Florida's offense worth keeping tabs on if you're Auburn's defense. Andre Caldwell, Riley Cooper and Cornelius Ingram in the passing game as well as Kestahn Moore and Brandon James in the running game all could make life tough for the Tigers this Saturday night but McNeil says preparation is the key to handling Coach Urban Meyer's spread scheme.

"They have a lot of weapons and a lot of playmakers," McNeil says. "They're good at executing and they've been running this system for a while. Coach Meyer is going to have them, they're going to be ready coming off a close game to Ole Miss. I know they're going to prepare real hard for us this week. Plus, they're going to be at home.

"We have to come out swinging from the first snap. We've got to draw first blood. Our preparation, our scouts giving us that good look, you can't simulate what they're going to do. You just have to get in there and study film and know our opponent, that's going to give us an advantage."

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