Florida Gators name starters at safety, linebacker

08/12/2014 7:37 PM

09/08/2014 8:05 PM

Redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor and sophomore safety Keanu Neal have locked down starting jobs, according to coach Will Muschamp.

“Neal is our best safety right now,” Muschamp said, emphatically.

Neal was a special-teams ace last season, but the hard-hitting sophomore has shined during open practices and distanced himself from the rest of the safeties.

“I just love to play football,” Neal said. “I’m a physical player, and I’ve kind of built that image on the team as a hitter. It’s just what I do.”

Muschamp praised Taylor’s offseason work, saying, “Mike has lost weight and kept his strength. He’s a very intelligent, smart player, understands what we do and how we do it. … He is a physical, tough presence.’’

INJURY UPDATE

All-Southeastern Conference corner Vernon Hargreaves III (knee) returned to practice Tuesday, as did defensive ends Jon Bullard (ankle), Alex McCalister (shoulder) and Bryan Cox (shoulder) and offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder).

Florida’s top two tailbacks Kelvin Taylor (hamstring) and Matt Jones (knee) worked out in full pads, pulling sleds, tossing medicine balls and riding stationary bikes but neither practiced with the team. They are both listed as day-to-day.

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