Will Muschamp wouldn’t offer any estimations on the number of plays Loucheiz Purifoy will average per game this season.
Rather, Florida’s head coach offered the following on his cornerback/receiver/special teams demon/waterboy: “He needs to be in really, really good shape.”
Since the 2010 season, to be blunt, Florida’s receiving core has been awful.
At this point, the Gators would do anything and everything to get just a semblance of 2008-like production out of their pass-catchers — including bringing over a player from their defense who starts at corner and runs like mad on special teams.
“At first, I didn’t want to play it,” Purifoy admitted on Tuesday. “I really didn’t want to play receiver, but I’m kind of getting back into the groove of it now … it’s kind of fun.”
Purifoy arbitrarily showed up on offense last season, his brief appearances lasting no longer than a play or two. On the rare occasion the 6’1 Pensacola-native did enter a game at wide out, his route on the play often found him running as fast as he could down the field in a straight line.
The experiment initially caught opposing defenses and even Florida fans off guard, but soon enough, when Purifoy’s random entry into a game occurred, most had an idea of what was coming.
“We’re trying to introduce concepts to him,” Muschamp said. “Instead of just sending him over and saying ‘ok, you got these three plays when you’re in the game.’ Because once you’re through running those three plays in the first quarter, they’re kind of on to what’s going on.
“We want to be able to expand what he can do at receiver. And I don’t think it’s diminished his skill at all as a corner.”
Purifoy’s stint at receiver will only last through the weekend, when he will promptly be placed back on defense for the duration of camp. Muschamp said before the start of spring practice that Purifoy would only get seven of 15 practices on the offensive side of the ball.
Purifoy said the hardest part about the adjustment so far has been getting down the various routes he is expected to run. However, according to quarterback Jeff Driskel, his newest toy on the outside has been eager to learn.
“I was happy when they told me he was going to be on our side for the first part of spring,” Driskel said. He’s an athletic freak. He’s a guy we want to get the ball, and he’s done a good job so far and he’s really embraced the challenge.
“Just the other day, I was watching film, and he poked his head in. We talked for 20 minutes about what he can do differently, and what I’m looking at, so he’s definitely trying to get as much knowledge as he can.”
While the receiving core has had an “under construction” label taped over their collective names throughout the past few years, Muschamp stated he’s liking what he’s seen so far out of his everyday receivers:
“Andre’s [Debose] done some nice things. Just got to continue; his biggest battle is consistency, doing it all the time. Quinton [Dunbar], I thought improved throughout the year tremendously … Latroy’s shown up done some nice things for us. Solomon Patton has been in non-contact and has done some nice things.”
Muschamp wasn’t as complimentary of sophomore receiver Raphael Andrades, but did explain why the youngster may be behind the curve a bit.
“Raphael needs to come on,” Muschamp said. “He was with baseball a lot, so I think mentally — obviously that puts him behind a little bit on some things we’ve tweaked, within what we’re trying to do, but he needs to pick up his mental intensity.”
With the addition of former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips in the offseason, Florida picked up a seasoned coach who has both taught and played the receiver position in the past. Muschamp said that Florida’s young group is “soaking in (Phillips’) knowledge” at this point.
One player who will continue to pay close attention is Purifoy, who could eventually prove to be a legitimate threat on the outside once he gets comfortable.
“It’s all new to me,” Purifoy said. “I’m trying, but I’ve been playing corner for a minute now and it’s kind of a different change.”
There’s still a lot to learn on Purifoy’s end, but he, like many fans, know his unique mixture of physical traits is too good to ignore at a position that has been all but forgotten about.
“I’m a competitor,” he said. “Speed kills and that’s what they like. They like competition, they like physical people and that’s what I bring to the table.