Gator fans have been complaining about their team's lack of playmaking wide receivers since Riley Cooper departed for the NFL after his 2009 senior season. Andre Debose was thought to be a star in the making, but he has severely underachieved. No other receiver has taken ownership of the lead role and produced with measurable consistency.
Once again, Florida has entered spring practice without a proven target to anchor its receiving corps. Quinton Dunbar could be in for a breakout season, but this is no guarantee. Furthermore, no other returning true pass-catcher has a reception total anywhere close to that of Dunbar.
Simply put, it looks like Gator fans could be in for more of the same in 2013.
However, Will Muschamp and Brent Pease believe they might have found a temporary solution in the form of Loucheiz Purifoy. They have currently been experimenting with the cornerback as a member of the first-team offense.
Believe it or not, things have gone quite well.
His speed and athleticism have grabbed the attention of spectators, including 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp. In fact, Goldkamp has said that Purifoy "clearly has an extra gear" on the outside. He made a few stellar grabs during the opening days of practice, and he has looked more than comfortable at the position.
Awesome. Problem solved, right?
Well, hold on a minute.
I am still highly skeptical of the entire idea. I understand that the Gators need playmakers and have needed them for a long time. However, I do not believe the right answer is potentially damaging one of the team's valuable defensive and special-teams assets.
Why am I so concerned?
For one thing, Purifoy does not exactly have the ideal size of a star wide receiver. His 6'1" height is not a major concern. However, the school lists his weight as only 185 pounds. This would make him one of the lightest Gator receivers to stand any chance of seeing the field next fall.
Although Purifoy has proven that he can deliver big hits, I am not so sure he can repeatedly take them as an offensive contributor.
If he does not suffer an injury, Purifoy also runs the risk of simply being overworked. The last thing someone expected to cover kickoffs and other SEC receivers needs is to line up on offense without a break. No matter how high-motored Purifoy's play can be, he will simply be worn down at some point.
It may not happen early in the season. However, the added abuse should take its toll by the latter half of Florida's brutal schedule.
Furthermore, the Gators have acquired an immensely talented group of freshman receivers in their latest recruiting class. This includes Demarcus Robinson, who is currently participating in spring practice as an early enrollee.
Instead of using Purifoy as a quick fix, Muschamp and his staff should take the time to groom and develop Robinson and the future arrivals into productive and reliable targets.
Let Robinson and Driskel develop chemistry in the coming weeks. It takes a good number of reps for a receiver and quarterback to be in sync with one another. If Purifoy is going through reps on both sides of the ball, it will be extremely difficult for Driskel to feel comfortable throwing to him.
For all of these reasons, I believe the risk involved with moving Purifoy outweighs the immediate benefits.
I'm not saying the Gators should completely abandon the idea. Lining him up on offense for a few plays here and there could lead to the occasional defensive breakdown and big play.
In the end, however, placing Purifoy at wideout is not going to make or break Florida's season. At this point, he should stay where he belongs: at cornerback.