GAINESVILLE — Junior DL Dante Fowler (Lakewood High) and sophomore CB Vernon Hargreaves (Wharton) were each first-team selections to the coaches preseason All-SEC team, voted on by the league Thursday. Fowler and Hargreaves were also named to the ESPN preseason All-SEC team.
Florida was one of only three schools to have multiple defensive players selected to the first team. Senior OL Chaz Green (Tampa Catholic) was a second-team selection on offense, and junior OL D.J. Humphries and junior RB Matt Jones (Armwood) were third-team selections. Junior LB Antonio Morrison was a third-team selection, and senior Andre Debose was a third-team return specialist selection. Hargreaves, a first-team All-SEC selection as a freshman last season, is among the players to watch on five postseason award lists, including the Walter Camp Player of the Year Preseason Watch List.
IT'S THE WINGSPAN: When he arrived, DL Alex McCallister was about 206 pounds. Today, the redshirt sophomore is around 240 and says he's in much better shape mentally and physically. His best asset? A 7-foot-2 wingspan. "I'll stick out my long arm," McCallister said. ''My long-arm pass rush is my golden ticket. There's not a lot of people that can stop that. The long arm is my pass rush move. It's because I have a long wingspan, so using that to my advantage, bigger people can do speed and power, quicker people can do footwork. Mine is my left I use my left (arm)."
USF: Opening loss a motivator
TAMPA — Senior WR Andre Davis is the first to admit that USF lacked concentration going into last season's opener against Division I-AA McNeese State. The former Jefferson High standout said Thursday that a lot of players didn't take the game seriously and it showed as McNeese won 53-21. A year later, that loss still stings, Davis said, and has created an entirely different mentality for Western Carolina. "I feel like we went into the game kind of lackadaisical; kind of thinking that we had them beat before we stepped onto the field," Davis said. "I feel like this year, we're not taking anybody for a joke. No matter what team it is."
Sophomore DB Nate Godwin, a Freedom alum, said: "We won't underestimate Western Carolina. They're a great team. We want to go out there and treat them as if we're playing Alabama."
MCFARLAND IMPROVING: Coach Willie Taggart said he expects senior TE Mike McFarland (knee) to be ready for the opener. McFarland, who has missed the last two weeks because of the undisclosed injury, was not at practice during the 30 minutes of viewing time for media. "Mike's getting better," Taggart said. "I'm excited to see Mike get back out here and help this football team."
Jeff Odom, Times correspondent
FIU: Hilliard gets QB start
MIAMI — Florida International coach Ron Turner announced junior E.J. Hilliard will be the starting quarterback. "Both he and Alex McGough did a great job during fall camp and I feel that we can win with them both,'' Turner said. ''However, E.J.'s experience has given him the edge. Alex could get an opportunity to play, but E.J. will be our starting quarterback." McGough is a freshman from Gaither. Hilliard appeared in 10 games in 2013, starting in four, completing 58.3 percent of his passes for 775 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, the Miami native has appeared in 16 games with seven starts. He has 1,420 yards, while completing 62.8 percent of his passes, including seven touchdowns.
Miami: A punting showdown
MIAMI — With Miami junior Matt Goudis solidly in position to be the kicker, the punter job remains a battle between walk-on senior Ricky Carroll and walk-on sophomore Justin Vogel, a Florida transfer from Berkeley Prep. Coach Al Golden said the Hurricanes will have a special-teams scrimmage today "that will determine a lot." Golden added: "They're going back and forth. Will (today's special-teams scrimmage) be the final? No. We have a lot of practices left. So, we might not even determine who the starters until next week."
FSU: Nearing full health
TALLAHASSEE — Several key Florida State players returned to pads after missing a majority of fall camp. Most notably, starting CBs P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby were full participants for the first time since pulling their hamstrings about 10 days ago. "They practiced today and they practiced well," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They did good things, moving. I wanted to give them a three-quarter because I wanted to ease them in the right way and they were champing at the bit.''