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April 8, 2012

O&B Debut: Young defensive backs impress


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MORE ORANGE & BLUE DEBUT COVERAGE: Improvement along the line | Notebook: Quarterbacks shine | Gators land Rivals100 wide receiver | Freshman wide out Pittman gets noticed | New Jersey cornerback commits to the Gators | Instant Analysis | Gators land Peach State offensive lineman | Live Game Blog | Alley: Live Game Thread

Louchiez Purifoy is soft-spoken, polite and occasionally wide-eyed.

Well, at least he is when he's wearing a Hollister T-shirt and sitting in the middle of a crowd of reporters. When he's adorn in shoulder pads and a Florida uniform, Purifoy is loud and intense with a craving for physicality. In return, he just might be a starting cornerback for the Gators when fall rolls around.

"He's doing real good," fellow cornerback Cody Riggs said. "He's improved a lot from last year. He's always been physical and he's a big body out there at corner and he can really help us on defense."

Purifoy's emergence isn't as sudden as it might sound. When he arrived at Florida last season as a freshman, he came with a variety of skills left over from high school football. When little opportunity was given for him to play cornerback, he took a special teams role in stride and racked up 27 tackles and one forced fumble on the year - most coming on kickoff coverage.

"It was just whatever I could do to help the team, that's what I'm here for," Purifoy said. "It was one of the big things I did in high school so coming in, seeing how I progressed through with coach Durkin, he said he liked it, and then I just went out there and played. Just wanted to make the team better."

Not only did he put up numbers, Purifoy did so with a certain pesky swagger. On defense, that personality has seemed to tone down a bit, but Purifoy was still a force in Saturday's Orange and Blue Debut. His numbers showed just one tackle because Florida's quarterbacks tended to look elsewhere when making throws.

"We did pretty good today because we communicated," he said - continuing a trend of using few words.

Purifoy's upward trend is not unique to him. Defensive backs have become the most talented position on the field for the Gators, even in spite of missing regulars like Marcus Roberson and Jeremy Brown to injury. With a starting job open opposite Roberson in the fall, names like Purifoy, Riggs and Jaylen Watkins have popped up even before highly-touted freshman Brian Poole steps on campus this summer.

Watkins made an impressive play on a fade route in the second half that drew praise from head coach Will Muschamp, but it was an unsuspecting name that jumped out.

Sophomore Jabari Gorman just might have thrown himself into an already crowded mix as well.

"He really showed up today," Muschamp said. "He made some tackles in space, which you have to do on the back end so we're very pleased with that. He's a very instinctive young man, smart."

Like Purifoy, Gorman made his mark on special teams as a freshman, and is reaping the benefits now. Unlike, Purifoy, he got a couple more looks in Saturday's game and responded with 12 tackles and a pass break-up.


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