Who better to tell us what T.J. Brunson and Kyle Markway, two South Carolina Gamecocks turned New York Giants rookies, can bring to their new team than their former head coach? South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp believes, as you might expect, that both players are deserving of their NFL opportunities.
“Both these guys are very bright. Both these guys present themselves very well, they communicate well. They’re good people,” said Muschamp, adding both would have benefitted from more opportunities to get in front of NFL staffs. “The situation that we all have gone through hurts guys like this.”
The Giants made Brunson part of their late-draft run on linebackers, selecting him 238th overall in Round 7 , initially to compete for a spot as a reserve linebacker and special teams contributor. They added Markway as an undrafted free agent to compete for a spot as a reserve tight end.
Let’s hear more from Muschamp, who spoke exclusively to Big Blue View via phone earlier this week.
“When you meet T.J. you want him in your locker room.”
Speed. Range. Instincts. Intelligence. Those are all things Giants GM Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge referenced when talking about why they drafted Brunson.
“He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Muschamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard,” Judge said. “He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.”
“He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts,” Gettleman said. “We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.”
Muschamp seconded all of that.
“Extremely intelligent player, made all the calls for us. Very physical player at the point of attack, plays well at the point of attack and I think he’ll be a good addition to the organization,” Muschamp said.
“I think he’s an inside backer. He can play both at the MIKE and the WILL … an instinctive player … runs well in space. I think he’s going to be a valuable player on special teams.”
As Gettleman indicated, Brunson’s size (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is perhaps part of the reason he was still available in the seventh round. Brunson was not invited to the NFL Combine and, of course, did not get the opportunity to work out at a Pro Day or visit in person with NFL teams.
“The draft is always in the eye of the beholder. Unless they’re just a definite first round, early round pick it’s all about who likes you,” Muschamp said. “I was really shocked that T.J. did not get invited to the Combine. I was floored. I certainly think he deserved that opportunity.
“Not having a pro day, not having some other opportunities to meet with NFL people hurt T.J. because T.J.’s a bright guy and when you meet T.J. you want him in your locker room.”
As a seventh-round pick, one of four linebackers the Giants selected in the sixth and seventh rounds, the Giants would likely be happy if Brunson becomes a quality special teams player and capable reserve or situational defender.
Muschamp believes Brunson could become more than that.
“From a speed standpoint he’s going to be a guy that can cover and play in space. He can give you a little pass rush ability when he needs to. He’s a guy that can play the two-back run game, he can play the one-back run game and he can play in space,” Muschamp said. “I think that’s where a lot of people question, that’s where linebackers get taken off the board, when they can’t play on third down, they can’t cover. T.J.’s shown the ability to cover some really good backs in our league.”
“Kyle is a good football player.”
It seems like a regular occurrence for the Giants to have an intriguing undrafted rookie tight end on their 90-man roster. A year ago, it was C.J. Conrad. He, of course, didn’t make it. A few years back there was Matt LaCosse. After failing to establish himself with the Giants, LaCosse has gone on to a moderately successful career with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
Now, Markway is that guy.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Markway missed the 2016 season with a foot injury. He played only two games in 2017 before a rib injury ended his season. Markway caught only three passes in 13 games during the 2018 season, but broke out in 2019 with 31 receptions for 349 yards (11.3 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns.
“He battled through all of those things [injuries] and really was a productive player for us the last two years,” Muschamp said. “Can block at the point of attack, he’s also a threat in the passing game because he catches the ball extremely well.”
NOTE: As an added bonus, you see some Xavier McKinney in the video above.
Muschamp understands why the Giants would be intrigued by Markway.
“Nowadays whether it’s in pro football or college football one of the hardest positions to find is a tight end. They’re either a slug who can’t run or they’re a receiver who won’t block anybody at the point of attack,” Muschamp said. “Kyle’s a guy that’s going to be able to block at the point of attack and be a threat in the passing game because he runs good routes, he’s got really good hands. He’s a guy that can give you some things in the passing game and some things in the running game and those guys are hard to find.”
Markway, because of his injuries, had a year of college eligibility left but chose to give the NFL a shot. In making the choice, Muschamp said the young man told him “Coach, I can’t stand grad school.”
“I totally understood it,” Muschamp said. “We wanted him to come back. He would have been a very valuable member of what we’re doing now offensively.”
Muschamp said Markway’s ceiling as a player “depends on the situation.”
“I’ve had guys who didn’t get invited to the Combine and got drafted in the third round, made a team and played for a long time. I’ve got a bunch of guys that were free agents and really good football players, and Kyle is a good football player,” Muschamp said. “It’s always about finding the right fit and the right situation and what’s on the roster, what are your opportunities.
“Kyle’s going to be a guy who’s going to take advantage of every opportunity because he’s extremely bright and he’s extremely driven in what he wants to do.”