Freshmen fighting for jobs

The freshman class hit the practice field for the first time on Friday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp has been careful to put too many expectations on the group since they signed in February, but he knows the group is talented and will make an impact this year. The loss of veteran players last year and the struggles of some positions make playing time possible for multiple freshmen.

The trio of Jacksonville signees will be heavily involved in fighting for playing time this year.

Daniel McMillian was the only one on campus during the spring, and those practices will give him an advantage as the linebacker position gets sorted out, especially early in the year when Antonio Morrison is serving a two-game suspension.

The 6-1, 227-pounder made a positive impression early in his time on campus in the spring. The Gators started spring practice with practices on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. That Sunday morning, Will Muschamp was walking through the team facility and peeked into the video room. Sitting by himself going other film was McMillian.

"Daniel catches on to football extremely well," Muschamp said. "When you see things like that with a young player, that's impressive. He's got a great work ethic. He's a great teammate. He's a guy that's really a lot of fun to coach.

"Daniel is battling for a starting job at linebacker."

All three of the Jacksonville signees were committed by April 7, 2012 before signing in February 2013. McMillian took some visits, but Ahmad Fulwood and Nick Washington shut the process down and started to recruit.

"They shut down the recruiting process," Muschamp said. "Very mature, great home environment, great families. All of the things you want to have and the type young men you want in your program."

Fulwood has a chance to get on the field early because the receiver position hasn't produced in recent years. Listed at 6-4 on most recruiting outlets, Fulwood is listed at 6-5 on the official team roster. His height will be a welcomed addition to a position group that doesn't have much of it.

"Ahmad's going to have a great opportunity to play receiver for us this year," Muschamp said. "He's going to have every opportunity in the world. We really liked his vertical speed, a guy that really had good ball skills down the field, could finish plays down the field."

The Florida coaching staff plans to model Washington's role after what Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins can do for the Gators. Both players can play cornerback, nickel and safety, and the coaches think Washington has the intelligence and understanding of the defense to play that same role. He's also a freshman that will likely have a role on special teams and plans to play baseball in the spring.

It's a lot to trust a freshman with, but the coaches believe Washington is capable of handling it.

"We're going to put a lot on his plate early as far as corner, safety and playing inside in a nickel situation," Muschamp said. "He's got coverage ability. He's really smart. He's a very good communicator. He is a physical player, and we're going to see how much he's ready to handle early on. He can play multiple positions because he's extremely intelligent, and he has the physicality to play inside as well as outside."

Washington isn't the only freshman that will have a chance in the secondary. Five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves comes to campus with a deep depth chart ahead of him at cornerback, but the coaches know he will play well enough in camp to create a role for himself.

"He's mature, he understands the game, very cerebral in his approach," Muschamp said. "We feel like (he) can slide inside and play nickel. He's got the physicality to play inside. He's got good run instincts. He's a good blitzer. He's got good ball skills down the field, and he's got outstanding man coverage ability.

"He'll have every opportunity in the world to play early."

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