GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Spring practice will begin for the Gators in about three weeks, with Florida set to officially begin Year 3 under Will Muschamp on March 13. This week, GatorBait.net stops to take a look at five of the biggest questions going into spring ball.
Loucheiz Purifoy attempts to catch a pass as a receiver in the South Carolina game on Oct. 20.
4. What will Loucheiz Purifoy's role really be?
Florida's situation at wide receiver is pretty dire heading into spring practice. Solomon Patton is still recovering from a broken arm and isn't expected to participate in practice in contact. Raph Andrades is playing baseball this spring.
While Trey Burton can play some receiver, the Gators are still pretty thin at the spot.
That's where cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy comes in. Purifoy played some receiver late in the season, flashing better speed and explosive ability than anyone at the position.
He clearly had a gear none of the other receivers did, and his footwork as a cornerback immediately allowed him to get separation with some quick cuts.
So the question now becomes this: Is Purifoy too valuable an asset on defense to spare or can the Gators afford to play him solely on offense at a position they desperately need a playmaker to emerge?
The debate, one the Florida coaches themselves are likely going through, stems from a few points.
First, Purifoy is a potential first-round draft pick at cornerback. He's raw, but he has the biggest upside on the roster at the position and the size and athleticism to make him a first-rounder if he continues to develop.
This issue should really only play into the coaches' decision in the event Purifoy isn't willing to sacrifice that potential -- at least temporarily -- to help the team at receiver.
If he doesn't mind playing receiver, this becomes much less of a concern.
The second issue with moving Purifoy to receiver is that Florida could potentially be short on numbers at cornerback in the near future.
The outlook for 2013 is fine. Jaylen Watkins, Marcus Roberson and Cody Riggs are all back. Add Brian Poole in his second year and Vernon Hargreaves III as a potential instant-impact player, and there's no reason to think moving Purifoy would be a big blow to the defense.
Sure, one of the guys mentioned above could slide to safety, which would shorten the numbers a bit. But the bigger issue comes with what happens in the 2014 season.
Should Marcus Roberson turn pro, Florida would have just Riggs, Poole and Hargreaves at the position. If the latter two develop well, that might not be a big deal. If they don't, the Gators could regret playing Purifoy at receiver.
Certainly nothing is a given here, which is what makes the question of what to do with Purifoy so interesting.
Will Muschamp told the Orlando Sentinel on National Signing Day that Florida will start off the spring with Purifoy mainly at receiver, playing some occasional cornerback.
However, even that outlook could be changed. Purifoy was recently charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, and Muschamp has not publicly commented on any discipline he may face.
If Purifoy is sidelined for a couple spring practices, it shortens the amount of time he'd have to get used to playing receiver and potentially reduces the reward for taking the risk of moving him from defense to offense.
It may still be a risk Florida is willing to -- and maybe even should -- take.
But we likely won't find out exactly what the plan is until Muschamp meets with the media just before spring practice begins.
The guess here is that Purifoy won't be sidelined for more than a practice or two and that the Gators will give him every chance to win major snaps at receiver going forward.
Cornerback is one of the deepest positions on the team, while wide receiver is one of the weakest.
It seems like a no-brainer to move one of your most explosive players to receiver to balance out that mix a little bit. There are definitely plenty of angles to consider, though.
And should moving Purifoy to receiver backfire, it's certainly a move that will be easy to second-guess.
Five Spring Questions
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