Posted: 11:49 a.m. Saturday, March 16, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
A roundup of what everyone's saying about Florida's first open spring practice on Friday.
The biggest topic of discussion about Florida so far in 2013 is The Loucheiz Purifoy Experiment, because it's fun to talk about a dynamic athlete maybe playing both ways. Purifoy's training at wide receiver right now, but should spend more of the spring training at cornerback after a seven-day tryout, and is still expected to be moved back to corner in the fall.
That said, the way he's reportedly playing at practice may well force Florida's hand. 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp writes ($) that Purifoy "clearly has an extra gear" at the position, and made a few full-extension catches; Purifoy ran an end around, and got loose on it, according to The Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi. Gator Country's Alex Gray thinks Purifoy will force Florida to play him extensively at receiver.
This is both good (yay, a playmaker!) and bad (...a defensive back is still Florida's best playmaker at wide receiver?), and it is all premature, given that pads, a critical component of actually playing football, haven't been put on yet. (Purifoy's fragility as a kick returner is also a reminder that every bit of praise needs to be tempered by a lack of pads.) But it is at least a sign that Purifoy isn't totally lost at receiver, and that is a very good thing.
We'll know better whether Purifoy can contribute in the fall when the fall actually arrives. Early returns suggest that yes will be the answer to that question.
A day after I wrote that defensive end was the Gators' best position, Dante Fowler, Jr. backed me up. Fowler harassed Tyler Moore, a contender to start at right tackle, all day on Friday, to the point that Moore being a step slow was written off as Fowler being a monster. Jonathan Bullard also repeatedly got the better of D.J. Humphries, according to Goldkamp.
But it's not just end that was good: Darious Cummings and Dominique Easley each had fine days, Bryan Cox, Jr. and Alex McAlister have each beefed up (check out McAlister's arms) and stayed for extra work. And Ronald Powell is back at practice after his fall setback in his attempt to recover from a torn ACL last spring.
And it's not just the line that was good: Jabari Gorman had a pick-six of Jeff Driskel, according to ESPN's Michael DiRocco ($), and was Rivals' Jesse Simonton's star of the day, and Cody Riggshad two of Will Muschamp. Linebacker is probably the soft underbelly between the secondary and front four, but Antonio Morrison has bulked up to Hulk out, Alex Anzalone looks like Popeye, and Daniel McMillian had a pick.
So, no, don't worry about the defense.
The major worry right now probably should be Jeff Driskel, who can now focus squarely on the field before him without looking over his shoulder for Jacoby Brissett. Driskel was not great on Friday (Simonton called his day "rather pedestrian"; Goldkamp issued the damning faint praise of "fairly competent"; DiRocco wrote that Driskel "still needs work" on deep balls), but it's the second day of his first spring as the unquestioned starter.
Driskel's likely going to remain a more dangerous runner than thrower unless he matures into Chris Leak in the next two years, because his gifts as a runner are just that great; few quarterbacks have his combination of mobility, size, and speed. He was most effective out of the pistol last year, and will probably continue to be most effective out of it in 2013. But Florida's not going to show its exotic flavors of the pistol on the second day of spring practice, and probably won't show them on the third day, and probably won't show them in the Orange and Blue Game, and ... you get it. There's no benefit there for Florida when it comes to showing every reporter in attendance and a smattering of fans (around 200, Goldkamp estimated) things that might work in the fall, so there's no way we're going to see them.
And, besides, the jury's going to remain out on Driskel until he goes into Tiger Stadium and beats LSU or something. He gets no credit from me for looking good in practice, and no demerits from me for looking bad. I'm willing to be patient with him.
Florida's coaches will be, too. They don't have a lot of other choices at the moment.
We'll have a correspondent at Saturday's open practice and a report from it before the end of the day, hopefully.