UF counting on Purifoy

Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy knocks the ball free from Ohio State's DeVier Posey during the second half of the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Jan. 2. The Gators recovered the ball.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 5:28 p.m.

The last player to wear No. 15 at Florida had a pretty big sophomore season.

And while no one expects Loucheiz Purifoy to win the Heisman Trophy as Tim Tebow did in his second year with the Gators, the coaches are counting on the 6-foot-1, 186-pound cornerback to shine in the secondary.

He was listed as a starter on the initial spring depth chart and continues to be in contention for the spot opposite Marcus Roberson.

“Loucheiz has done a nice job,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “He's a physical corner. He's a guy that can run on the top end. He can finish plays. He's got great ball skills and instincts. He's got all the critical factors you talk about in evaluating a defensive back, especially the corner position. He has them all. There's no question he's right in that mix.”

Purifoy saw action in all 13 games last season, but an injury in training camp stunted his growth early on.

“He pulled his hamstring in camp (last season) and he missed a considerable amount of time, on top of being a freshman,” Muschamp said. “Everything was new to him. So from a standpoint of learning and knowledge of the system, (the injury) put him behind with the missing practice time.”

When Purifoy reached full strength, he made his mark on kickoff coverage with a team-best 22 special teams tackles. Muschamp regrets not getting him involved sooner at cornerback.

“He was probably our best special teams player,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy early in the year that we targeted and said, ‘this guy is really playing well, we've got to find a way to get him on the field at corner.' And as the season continued to progress, we finally got to it. It was late in the year, we probably should have did it earlier. Quite honestly, it was a mistake on my part.”

Once Purifoy got into the rotation at corner, he produced results for Florida's defense. In the 24-17 win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, he recorded a career-best five tackles and caused his first career turnover (a forced fumble).

“Bowl practice was huge for him,” Muschamp said. “He did a great job, and, of course, played very well in the bowl game. So I think he's just really matured in my opinion and he's really taken some nice steps as a football player.”

UF defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Purifoy has built on his bowl performance this spring and should be a playmaker for the Gators in 2012.

“He really kind of came on through the bowl preparation … and broke through in that game. He played a bunch,” Quinn said. “And, so, going into the offseason, we were saying, ‘all right now the light's gone on for him,' and that's carried through (the spring). I like the way he challenges as a tall guy. He can press and get his hands on people. I'm pleased with where he's at and the coaching that he's taken and put out on the field. So he's one I'm looking forward to big things from.”

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