Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy Reminds Us Why He Will Be a 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick

Allison Banko@@allisonbankoFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2013

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 05:  Loucheiz Purifoy #15 of the Florida Gators asks the crowd for noise during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

As the Gators made their way into The Swamp's locker room before kickoff Saturday night, they lifted teammate Loucheiz Purifoy onto their shoulders. Just something to hype up Florida 20 minutes before taking on Arkansas. A little extra fuel to the fire, if you will.

Well, that fire burned especially bright in Purifoy in Florida's journey to a 30-10 victory.

The junior CB recorded the first interception of his career with 8:33 left in the first half and topped it off with a 42-yard return for a TD to lift the Gators to a 10-7 lead against the Razorbacks. 

"I've seen that play a lot, but I hadn't seen him finish that play," UF head coach Will Muschamp said after the game. "To finish that play, to create some momentum to get the crowd going, the top came off the place when it happened."

This season, Purifoy has needed to gain some momentum of his own. He began the season on the media-hype train, but with three games and two starts under his belt, Purifoy had only recorded seven tackles (one for loss) and a blocked punt. On offense, he had only racked up 15 yards on the ground.

Purifoy was expected to come up big for the Gators this year after flexing his first-round potential last season when the Pensacola, Fla. native started 12 of the Gators' 13 games, finishing the season with three forced fumbles, two blocked kicks, 51 tackles and five pass breakups. 

Earlier this week, the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson wrote an article about Purifoy's slow start for the Gators. Thompson quoted UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin's thoughts on the 6'0", 190-pound cornerback: 

He needs to be more consistent. That’s kind of the message to the whole defense. With Loucheiz, it’s just a matter of being on it every down technique wise and fundamentally. When he does that, he’s pretty darn good.

Purifoy proved he got the message, establishing himself as a force on the field by the half. 

In the postgame presser, Muschamp challenged the idea that Purifoy's started 2013 in a slump, saying he has been playing well and simply hasn't had a lot of balls thrown his way this year. 

Gators defensive back Cody Riggs said the same following the win. 

"Loucheiz, he's doing what he's supposed to do," Riggs said of Purifoy. "A lot of times people don't throw at him because they don't want the ball to get intercepted. You saw what happened last time they threw at him. I think he's having a great season."  

It took him until Week 6, but Purifoy has finally asserted himself as a leader on the field in a big way, and it couldn't have come at a better time as UF's set to take on LSU and mighty Zach Mettenberger next weekend. 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.