For fans, part of the excitement of spring practice comes in the form of seeing which players have made changes to their bodies and/or psyche.
While Florida has several players who have undergone physical changes during the winter months, Gators fans will also see players who have made changes as far as their position is concerned.
The majority of the roster moves were made to help the offensive side of the ball, as four Gators have slid over from their normal defensive positions.
Perhaps the most glaring move to fans glancing at the depth chart is the temporary move of cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy to wide receiver. The 6’1 junior saw limited snaps at wide out last season, and although he played little, it was clear to see what Purifoy can potentially do with the ball in his hands.
Purifoy will only work at receiver for the first seven days of practice, but coaches believe the short window will ultimately prove to be beneficial to Purifoy, the offense and Florida’s other corners.
“They watch film in our league too, so you can’t always just put Loucheiz in and throw a screen or run a reverse with him every time he’s in the game,” Muschamp said. “We need to expand his package if we’re going to continue to move forward with that.”
Added Pease: “I think up to this point what he’s done has been very specific … You play maybe a couple different spots in there and we can move you around and kind of see the whole gamut of learning the foundation of what we can put in seven days and some adjustments we can do.”
While the Gators will look to incorporate Purifoy more on offense, Florida will also be trying out a few players in positions where the primary responsibility is blocking.
Rhaheim Ledbetter came to UF as a safety last season, but the redshirt freshman will join redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe at fullback this spring. Both Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said starting fullback Hunter Joyer was one of Florida’s best and most consistent players last season, but the Gators will need to build depth behind him.
“We’re going to be a two-back team,” Muschamp said. “We felt like Hunter [Joyer] was a guy that’s going to be in some one-back stuff for us. He also will be a fullback for us and didn’t want him shouldering that burden and all of a sudden we don’t have him and we lose our two-back package. .
“So both of those guys, the first seven days, are going to be given a shot at fullback and kind of see where we are. Rhaheim played running back in high school … catches the ball well … Gideon has not contributed much for us on defense since he’s been here and he deserves the opportunity to try and get into a situation to help us.”
Listed at 5’9 and 207 pounds, it’s assumed Ledbetter will have to put on some weight between now and next season to be effective at the fullback spot. Ajagbe, if anything, is overqualified for the role, currently standing at 6’3 243.
In front of the new fullbacks will be a new offensive tackle. Former defensive lineman Quinteze Williams will be moving to the right tackle spot during the spring, where he’ll back up Nebraska-transfer Tyler Moore.
Both players will receive plenty of reps in the absence of starter Chaz Green, who will sit out the spring after ankle surgery. At 280 pounds, Williams ties sophomore tackle DJ Humphries as the lightest player on the line, but Florida’s coaches feel it is the best spot for the Georgia-native.
“Quinteze Williams is a young man we wanted to move over to the offensive line, a guy that’s got some size and girth to him …We felt like his opportunity as an offensive lineman was going to be better than on the defensive line, so he wanted to make that move.”
Last year, then-freshman Antonio Morrison filled in often for the injured Jelani Jenkins at the WILL linebacker position. After being named to the All-SEC Freshman team, Morrison will slide to the MIKE position for his sophomore campaign.
Morrison played last season at 218 pounds, but in the three months since the season ended, has gotten up to 229.
“Antonio is a very physical player to begin with, that’s kind of his nature, his style of play,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “He’s put some weight on, some size on this offseason. I think he’ll be just fine by the time we get to the year he’ll be about 230 pounds or so.”
Muschamp says Morrison’s position change may be more in name than anything.
“Our Mike and Will in regular, personnel is really mirrored, it’s the same position,” Muschamp said. “But when we move to nickel, the Mike and Dime have different coverage responsibilities, so we felt Antonio would be better suited to play the Mike and Michael Taylor at the Will, but we can always switch those guys back because they’ve played both positions.”