Desperation is a stinky cologne, but it's one that Florida head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease were forced to wear this spring.
With five healthy scholarship wide receivers (including all-everything player Trey Burton) available, none of whom are established downfield threats, the Gator coaching staff moved starting cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy to the offensel in an attempt to kick-start the stagnant Gator passing attack.
That passing attack finished last in the SEC last season, averaging just 146.3 yards per game.
While quarterback Jeff Driskel takes the majority of the heat for Florida's passing woes, the inability of players like Andre Debose and Quinton Dunbar to stretch the field is a big reason why Florida was one-dimensional last season.
Giving Purifoy significant snaps as a wide receiver would only be a Band-Aid.
The 6'0", 190-pound junior—who had 51 tackles and five pass breakups a year ago—is slated to start opposite Marcus Roberson in Florida's secondary, according to Florida's summer depth chart. While Muschamp maintains that the depth chart is worth the paper (or, in this case, the piece of Internet real estate) it's printed on, it does speak to how valuable Purifoy is to the Florida defense.
Add incoming freshman Vernon Hargreaves III to the mix, and Florida's cornerbacks could be the most talented corps in the SEC. Purifoy and Roberson have both been generating plenty of draft buzz this spring, with Purifoy being listed by ESPN's Todd McShay as a potential first-round pick in next year's draft (subscription required).
Hargreaves may be great, but he's still a freshman and will make freshman mistakes. Florida should not improve a weakness at the expense of its unquestioned strength.
Muschamp said during the SEC coaches' spring teleconference that Purifoy will get another look at wide receiver when the Gators kick off fall camp later this summer.
The way I've got it planned right now, the first 12 days he is strictly on defense. I want to see number one, how these wideouts continue to develop through the summer and where they are. Through those first 12 practices, you're not going to find that out if you play him on offense. After that, we'll make a decision on how much.
In other words, somebody better step up at wide receiver, otherwise Purifoy will be getting significant reps on offense.
This isn't new. Florida's biggest SEC rival was dealt virtually the exact opposite situation last offseason.
With depth and suspensions wreaking havoc on its secondary, Georgia was forced to move wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell—a 2011 SEC All-Freshman selection—to cornerback for the first four games of the 2012 season.
It didn't cost Georgia, but could have had Mitchell stayed on defense after wide receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown were lost for the season due to torn ACLs.
Florida has games at Miami and versus Tennessee before the end of September. Not exactly tough opponents, but certainly tricky games—especially if an answer doesn't present itself in the passing game during fall camp.
Gator fans better hope that Purifoy doesn't play a lot of offense in 2013. If he does, that means lingering questions from last year's squad have forced the staff to gamble with its secondary.
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