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McFarland eligible to play for South Florida immediately: A fan’s reaction
As preparation for the upcoming season draws to a close, the University of South Florida received good news this week. The NCAA has ruled that new tight end Michael McFarland is eligible to play in the team's games immediately, beginning with the season opener at Notre Dame on Sept. 3, 2011.
McFarland is a second-year player from Blake High School in Tampa. He enrolled at the University of Florida in 2009 and dressed for three games during his freshman season in 2010. Despite wearing the uniform in those contests, McFarland failed to see action for the Gators last year.
When Florida's Urban Meyer resigned in January 2011, the school opted to change directions under new coach Will Muschamp. A pro-style offense was installed and put under the direction of new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
In the fallout of this transition, five players, including McFarland, announced intentions to transfer away from Gainesville.
McFarland enrolled at South Florida in July and applied to the NCAA for a hardship waiver. Typically when students transfer between schools, they must sit out one season to be eligible for athletic play at the new institution.
In seeking the seldom-used waiver, McFarland cited the need to be closer to home due to family illness.
The NCAA agreed with the player's request and McFarland, unlike fellow departing Gator transfers such as Mike Blakely, will be able to play in 2011. The addition gives South Florida Coach Skip Holtz greater depth at tight end, a potential position of weakness.
Losing 2010 players Kevin Gidrey and Andrew Ketchel to graduation, the Bulls were further hampered when starter Jeff Hawkins sustained a season-ending knee injury over the summer. That loss forced junior wide receiver Evan Landi to switch to tight end and otherwise left only junior Andreas Shields and sophomore Isaac Virgin, who combine for only seven career catches.
A former quarterback in high school, Mike McFarland is a big 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound weapon who was once rated as the 12th best tight end in the country in 2009. He was widely recruited and chose Florida over other prominent schools, including Auburn and South Carolina.
Michael McFarland now has four years of eligibility to play college football in his hometown. He looked sharp during summer camp and should be a weapon for Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels. His emergence would further help by enabling Landi to line up outside, where he flourished as South Florida's second-leading receiver last season.
Though just a redshirt freshman, Bulls fans should keep an eye on Mike McFarland in 2011.
TheBullRush.com, GatorZone.com, TampaBay.com.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer from the Tampa area who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and the Fort Myers Examiner. A South Florida Bulls fan, he enjoys visiting Raymond James Stadium for college football on Saturdays too.
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