SEC: Louchiez Purifoy

What to watch in the SEC: Week 3

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
10:15
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We're heading into Week 3 in the SEC, so here's what to watch:

1. Quarterback health: The statuses of Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and South Carolina's Connor Shaw are still unknown. Wilson suffered a head injury against Louisiana-Monroe, while Shaw is still nursing a bruised shoulder from Week 1. For the Gamecocks, losing Shaw for the second straight week won't really hurt South Carolina's offense. It was just fine without him against East Carolina. However, Arkansas isn't in the same position. Brandon Allen completed just 6 of 20 passes against Louisiana-Monroe in place of Wilson. Not having Wilson will make Saturday's game against No. 1 Alabama that much tougher for the Razorbacks.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonCoach John L. Smith and his Razorbacks face a formidable foe in No. 1 Alabama this week.
2. Arkansas' defense: Speaking of the Razorbacks, what has happened to that defense? It was supposed to be more aggressive and more disciplined under Paul Haynes. We saw neither in the second half against Louisiana-Monroe, as the Razorbacks blew a 21-point lead. The defense was shredded against a lesser opponent and now has to play one of the most balanced attacks in the SEC. Last year, Alabama wore down this defense. If Arkansas is going to pick itself up, it has to play much tougher than it has in the first two games. Alabama has far more talent than Arkansas' first opponents and has the capability to really beat this unit down.

3. Tennessee’s passing game vs. Florida’s secondary: This game always comes down to the running game, but the difference this time will be Tennessee's passing game against Florida’s secondary. The Gators are loaded with talent back there and made tremendous strides during the second half of the Texas A&M game, while Tennessee might have the best passing game in the SEC, led by quarterback Tyler Bray. The matchups between Justin Hunter and Marcus Roberson and Cordarrelle Patterson and Loucheiz Purifoy should be great. Zach Rogers is another deep threat the Gators have to be careful about, but Matt Elam has the ability to take the deep ball away for Florida. Should be fun.

4. Must-wins: Both Auburn and Vanderbilt are 0-2 and are coming off tough losses. The Commodores blew a halftime lead at Northwestern, while Auburn was overmatched across the board at Mississippi State. The Tigers are struggling with or without the ball this season, and that's a major concern. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier has to get going, and he's facing the team that just knocked off Arkansas. Vandy just can't get anything going on offense. The explosion we expected to see has been mostly absent through two games and the Commodores have to generate some sort of offensive momentum this weekend against Presbyterian.

5. Mississippi State keeping its edge: Now that Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs have gotten over the hump of beating a West opponent not named Ole Miss, the Bulldogs can’t get complacent. That was just one win, and this team has far bigger goals than just beating Auburn. With the schedule Mississippi State has, it’s very possible the Bulldogs could be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into the Alabama game at the end of October. But this team has to focus on Troy and come out strong against a team that won’t be a pushover.

6. Showdown in the Grove: It’s been a long time since a game in Oxford got attention like Saturday’s showdown with Texas has been receiving. It’s eerily similar to the 2003 game with Eli Manning and LSU, although there isn’t hatred in the air. The Grove is gonna be poppin’ and Oxford is expected to double in size. There’s more confidence around that town because Ole Miss is 2-0 for the first time since 2009. The talent difference between Ole Miss and Texas is obvious, but the Rebels have some momentum and some conviction. Can the Rebels stop that burnt orange wave coming to town?

7. The newbie's returns: Missouri and Texas A&M got a nice taste of what life will be like in the SEC last weekend. Now, it's time for both teams to regroup. Both teams lost a lot of steam in the second half, which was expected. Missouri has the challenge of playing Arizona State and its high-flying offense. The Sun Devils have averaged 54 points through two games, averaging 532 offensive yards in the process. The Tigers got into a shootout with Arizona State last year, but can they handle another one after that physical loss to Georgia? The Aggies are taking on SMU in Dallas, and are also recovering from a tough loss to Florida. This is a game where Texas A&M should try to get more out of its running game, which has to generate more production up the middle.

8. Mettenberger’s arm: Through the first two games of the season, we’ve been anxiously waiting to see what Zach Mettenberger could really do in LSU’s offense. So far, he’s yet to eclipse the 200-yard passing mark in a game and has just two touchdowns -- pedestrian numbers compared to what everyone expected. But the Tigers have utilized their running game flawlessly and haven’t needed to send the ball downfield much. Saturday, that should change. It’s time to unleash Mettenberger and get him going more in the offense before LSU gets into conference play.

9. Lattimore’s workload: If Steve Spurrier wanted to push Marcus Lattimore anymore last week, he would have. But the Head Ball Coach gave his workhorse a bit of a rest against East Carolina, running him just 13 times. Maybe Spurrier just wanted to get his new quarterback, Dylan Thompson, a chance to show his stuff in place of Shaw. But as Lattimore continues to return from his knee injury, he’ll need to get more reps and get more comfortable on the field before league play revs up. UAB should provide him the opportunity to do that.

10. Florida’s winning streak: The Gators have had Tennessee’s number for seven straight years now. Not since Dallas Baker’s infamous slap in Knoxville have the Vols bested Florida. This might be Tennessee’s best shot since. There’s no question that this is the best and most complete Vols team Derek Dooley has had. The Vols have cruised through the first two weeks, while Florida’s offense stumbles in with a lot of uncertainty concerning the passing game. Florida might have the edge on defense, but Tennessee’s offense knows how to put up points. Is this the year Tennessee finally gets the Gator off its back?

Florida's Roberson out for the year

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
3:00
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Florida suffered a pretty big loss to its defense over the weekend.

Coach Will Muschamp said during his Monday news conference that true freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson will miss the rest of the season after straining his neck in Florida's 17-12 loss to South Carolina Saturday.

Roberson had started each of Florida's 10 games this season and recorded 18 tackles, one interception and one pass break-up. Muschamp said he expects to get Roberson back in time for spring practice.

Roberson had his hiccups here and there this season, but there was no question he was Florida's best cornerback. He was rangy, fast and physical in Florida's defensive backfield. He was sometimes overly aggressive in his coverage, making him susceptible to pass interference calls, but he rarely got beat for big plays and was Florida's most consistent corner.

The loss of Roberson means Florida takes yet another hit to its corner depth. First it was the dismissal of Janoris Jenkins that hurt this secondary, then a knee injury has kept junior Jeremy Brown off the field this season. Florida will now turn to sophomores Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins. Riggs has started 10 games, while Watkins has started five. Both has shown flashes, but have been prone to giving up big plays in one-on-one coverage.

Freshman Louchiez Purifoy and redshirt senior Moses Jenkins will both get more opportunities on the field as well. Purifoy is one to watch here. He is still pretty raw, but his speed and athleticism have caught the eye of his head coach. With more reps in practice, we could see more of him outside of just special teams.
The loss of senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was dismissed from the team Tuesday, leaves a major hole in Florida’s already inexperienced secondary.

Let’s face it: Jenkins was Florida’s best defensive player and arguably the Gators’ best player overall. So, it took a lot of guts for Florida coach Will Muschamp to dismiss him.

[+] EnlargeJanoris Jenkins
Kim Klement/US PresswireSenior corner Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the Gators after his second drug-related arrest in three months.
Jenkins, a three-year starter, was named to the All-SEC first team by the Associated Press in 2010 and held the SEC’s top two receivers from 2010 -- South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery and Alabama’s Julio Jones -- to a combined 10 catches for 72 yards in two games.

He seemed to take his entire side of the field out of play and had eight career interceptions.

So where does Florida turn now that Jenkins is gone?

Florida now turns to sophomore Cody Riggs, redshirt junior Jeremy Brown and fifth-year senior Moses Jenkins to carry its secondary.

Fortunately, they all received quality reps in practice after Janoris Jenkins missed all of spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery.

None of Florida’s immediate options has a lot of experience, but Brown and Riggs did play extensively in 2010.

Brown, who missed his first two seasons at Florida because of a severe back injury, started 10 of the 11 games he appeared in last season. He recorded three interceptions, including one that went 52 yards for a touchdown.

Riggs played in all 13 of Florida’s games in 2010, starting three, and recorded one interception.

Moses Jenkins started Florida’s season opener, but missed most of the rest of the season with an elbow injury. He returned on Nov. 20 against Appalachian State and started in Florida’s 31-7 loss to Florida State -- a game in which FSU quarterback Christian Ponder picked on him.

Then there’s sophomore Jaylen Watkins, who appeared in 10 games last season, but mostly on special teams.

Of those four, Riggs and Brown could be the best options at the two corner spots for Florida. Brown was impressive at times last year and didn’t seem to be bothered by his back, but he occasionally looked like a player who had been out of football for two years by getting turned around on deep plays.

Riggs was a pleasant surprise for the Gators last season, earning more playing time throughout the season, but he was picked on from time to time. In his defense, he was fresh out of high school and going up against SEC talent.

Moses Jenkins has the most experience, but a concussion in 2009 and an elbow injury in 2010 have really impacted his career.

After that, Florida will have to look at its incoming freshmen for help.

Florida signed four potential corner prospects in its 2011 recruiting class. One of those signees -- De’Ante Saunders -- went through spring practice, but struggled at times and was listed as a backup in the nickel corner spot.

Former Fort Lauderdale, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas standout Marcus Roberson probably has the most skill of Florida’s defensive back signees, but with his size he could potentially move to safety. This recent development could force Florida’s coaches to keep him at cornerback longer than expected.

Signees Louchiez Purifoy and Valdez Showers were two of Florida’s most athletic recruits in this class, but are pretty raw at the corner position. It would be hard to believe Florida’s coaches would expect either to be able to contribute at the corner spot early for the Gators.

There is talent there, but it clearly lacks experience. It says a lot about Muschamp to kick a player off with Janoris Jenkins' ability, especially considering the bind his secondary is now in.

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