Battle of the four corners
Published: Friday, August 10, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 4:59 p.m.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Cody Riggs, Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins can relate to what quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are going through in preseason camp.
The four Florida players are embroiled in an intense position competition of their own.
The cornerback battle.
By all accounts, it is just as intense, just as competitive, just as close as the much more publicized battle for the starting quarterback role.
“It's a battle from period to period, play to play,” senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. said Thursday of the cornerback competition. “Nobody's job is safe. If someone messes up, somebody else right behind them is going in. One slip up and somebody's coming in for you.”
Purifoy, a true sophomore, puts it even more succinctly.
“Nobody has a job,” he said.
At least not yet.
Here's what the competition comes down to: four cornerbacks (Purifoy, Riggs, Roberson and Watkins) battling for two starting roles.
Just like in the QB battle, the CBs are dead even at the moment.
“It's very intense,” said Watkins, a true junior who started eight games last season. “We're all scrapping right now, trying to get ball, make big plays, tackling. It's all down to every small centimeter.
“We're all trying to do everything right, which is making us all better. It definitely keeps you from being complacent.”
Through the first week of camp, the four cornerbacks have been sharing equal reps with the No. 1 defense. At this stage, there apparently are no early leaders for the two starting jobs.
“Right now, we're all battling for a position, and it changes every day,” Purifoy said. “We're just competing and we'll see who gets the starting jobs. There's a lot of pressure. We're all competitors. We all came here for one reason. Hopefully, it all works out for the best.
“We're all getting the same amount of reps. If you group goes first one period, then the next group goes first the next period. If you're a competitor, it should (bring out the best in you). Everyone is competing.”
If experience matters, Riggs and Roberson could be considered the favorites to nail down the starting roles.
Riggs is the Gators' most experienced corner. He's played in 26 games and started 13. He's gained strength and is up to 190 pounds.
Roberson was considered UF's best cornerback in 2011. In his true freshman season, he started the first 10 games before injuring his neck in the South Carolina game. He missed the rest of the season and the spring, but he's healthy again and trying to regain his starting job.
While Purifoy and Watkins can't match Riggs and Roberson in terms of experience, both came on strong late last season and carried their momentum into the spring (and now fall).
“We're all doing pretty well right now,” said Watkins, who said he has bulked up to 190 pounds after playing at 180 last season. “It's making us all better because everyone wants to play.
“Purifoy has really stepped up. We're all pretty close. We all help each other out. There are no hard feelings. There are only two positions and there are four of us, but we're pretty close. We don't let it get the best of us.”
Watkins said the four corners all know what it's going to take to win the battle for a starting role.
“Consistency,” Watkins said. “We're all great football players. Now, it's all about being in the playbook and who can keep the errors to the lowest.”
It's a tight and intense battle — just like the one being waged at quarterback.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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