Pure talent, but Purifoy is taken

Sophomore could be answer at WR for Gators, but too valuable as cornerback

Updated: December 20, 2012, 11:31 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida might already have an answer on the roster for its problems at receiver.

But coach Will Muschamp is only going to let offensive coordinator Brent Pease use it once in a while in 2013.

Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will be spending more time on offense in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and next season so the Gators can take advantage of his speed, size and play-making ability. But no matter how much success Purifoy has, Pease is never going to be able to pry him away from the defensive side of the ball -- not with a head coach who is a former defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeLoucheiz Purifoy
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesLoucheiz Purifoy is one of the best athletes on the Gators, which makes him a dangerous receiver in a part-time role.
"The bottom line is you've got to get the ball in the hands of guys that can make plays and play hard and play fast and play physical, and he does," Muschamp said. "He will have a lot of opportunities as we move forward.

"But he's still going to be a corner, though."

But even a part-time appearance by Purifoy on offense will help. UF's receivers -- not including tight ends -- have underachieved for the past three seasons and have combined to catch just 58 passes this season, led by Quinton Dunbar's 31 catches for 306 yards and four TDs. The biggest element missing from Florida's receievers, aside from the ability to consistently separate and get open, is the lack of a downfield threat. Frankie Hammond had touchdown catches of 50 and 75 yards, but those came after he caught a short pass and broke a tackle. No other receiver has a reception of longer than 23 yards.

Purifoy, who played receiver as well as corner at Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest, played a handful of snaps at receiver this season but hasn't had a catch, although he was targeted on a deep sideline pass that was overthrown. It is Purifoy's play-making ability on defense and special teams that got the coaching staff thinking about him on offense. He has broken up five passes, forced three fumbles and blocked two kicks in addition to starting 11 games at corner and making 51 tackles.

He's a big target -- 6-foot-1, 189 pounds -- with long arms and very good speed. He's also physical -- Muschamp said he is the most physical of UF's cornerbacks -- and able to make a play on the ball in the air. That's something UF's receivers haven't done well.

"You saw it in the game against Florida State," Pease said of Purifoy, who had two kickoff returns for 44 yards and carried the ball once on an end around for 8 yards against the Seminoles. "He did a good job there. You know, but you can't always just put him in there to touch it. He's going to have to do some things where he's not always in there just to touch the ball. Any way we can get him the ball in space, that's kind of the key."

Purifoy is obviously raw as a receiver, and he doesn't know the offense. So far the Gators have been pretty simple with the way they've used him -- fly patterns, an end around. They haven't asked him to read coverages and adjust his routes.

However, receiver Frankie Hammond said Purifoy could be pretty good if he were to move to offense full time.

"Loucheiz is an athlete," Hammond said. "It's not so much about him being a receiver and reading so much, it's letting him go out there and play in space. Just give him a route and if he sees a certain coverage maybe convert it but with a guy like him you just want to get him the ball and just let him run and just let him do what he does best."

Unfortunately, he seems to be able to do that better than Florida's receivers.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter