The Florida Gators had a resurgent season in 2012 in their second year under head coach Will Muschamp. The program had a rough couple of seasons after the departure of Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. The Gators rebounded to go 11-2 thanks to breakout performances from a lot of their young talent and Purifoy was one of those players who made a big impact.
Purifoy earned a starting job last year on the other side from Marcus Roberson, and Purifoy became Florida's best cover corner. He excelled in man coverage throughout the season as the Gators' defensive scheme largely left Roberson and Purifoy playing on islands. Pufifoy recorded 51 tackles, five passes broken up and three forced fumbles.
Aside from defense, Purifoy was a superstar on special teams. All three of his forced fumbles came on special teams and he blocked two kicks as well. One punt he blocked was scooped by teammate Jelani Jenkins and returned for a touchdown in the final seconds of a 27-20 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Purifoy was a tremendous gunner on punt coverage all year.
Purifoy had two forced fumbles to help Florida blow out South Carolina. The first one came on the first play of the game, and the second was on the next kickoff - but that one was recovered by the Gamecocks. He came up with more clutch plays including a forced fumble in the Gators' road win over Florida State to conclude the regular season.
Purifoy was a backup cornerback in 2011 and played on special teams. The freshman had 27 tackles and a forced fumble.
2013 Season Outlook:
The Gators are expecting a big season out of Purifoy this fall. The junior is a superior athlete and Florida plans on him being an essential part of its defense-led team. Purifoy is so fast and such a dangerous play-maker that the Gators are planning on playing him on offense at wide receiver as well as at cornerback in 2013. Florida says he will play more corner than anything, but if the Gators' young receivers don't step up, Purifoy will be prepared for double duty.
Purifoy is going to go against some good receivers next fall. Starting in mid-October, he will have a 4-week stretch of challenging wide outs. The first is when Florida travels to take on the LSU duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. Florida visits Missouri and highly touted sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham a week later. Rival Georgia will test Purifoy with quarterback Aaron Murray and junior wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
The best receiver of them all comes at the very end with Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews. He had a big game against Florida last year, so Purifoy and Roberson will want some revenge, especially since it is Florida's homecoming game. If Purifoy plays well in those four games, it will make a good junior season overall for him.
There doesn't appear to be any weakness or limitation for Purifoy as an athlete. He has ideal size for a cornerback with the agility to turn and run with receivers. Purifoy's speed and movement skills allow him to run with receivers in and out of breaks to prevent them from gaining separation. The first-year starter proved to have cover-corner ability last year. Purifoy's height and length mean quarterbacks have a hard time getting the ball by him.
Purifoy's tight coverage was one of the reasons why he did not record an interception in 2012. The sophomore simply didn't have that many passes thrown his direction. His level of ball skills is one of the only unknowns about him athletically. Purifoy hasn't had an interception in college, but that may not be from a lack of ball skills as he obviously is good enough at catching passes that the Gators are cross-training him at wide receiver.
Purifoy has rare speed for a large cornerback. He can run with speed receivers down the field and isn't threatened by smaller fast wide outs who try to get over the top. Purifoy can battle the big receivers and won't be bullied around. He also showed nice fundamentals as a first-year starter. Purifoy didn't gamble on routes and was disciplined.
The junior is surprisingly physical for a cornerback. He contributes in run defense and has dished out some violent hits on special teams. Purifoy's forced fumbles were no accident as he has nice instincts to slap the ball out while making a tackle. He could be a special teams demon in the NFL, if his team allows to play there. Perhaps as a rookie Purifoy'll be a backup who plays on special teams and once he's a veteran starter, used on special teams only in critical situations.
It will be interesting to see how the junior handles the large snap count this season, but he spent the spring preparing his body for the larger workload. While Purifoy may be used as a receiver to help jump start the Gators' offense, he looks like a cornerback only for the NFL. If Purifoy makes some splash plays as a wide out, it's possible his pro team will consider using him in special circumstances.
Purifoy has the athletic skill set to potentially be a shutdown corner in the NFL and could be a rare prospect who is coveted by many teams.
2014 NFL Draft Expectations:
Entering the 2013 season, Purifoy looks like one of the top cornerback prospects in the nation. He has an extremely rare combination of size, speed, athleticism and physicality. Purifoy has a ton of upside with his year of starting experience. The junior could be a dominant shutdown cornerback.
It would help Purifoy's draft stock if he could produce a nice interception total. If Purifoy stands out in his four-game stretch against LSU, Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt, he could solidify a first-round grade. Purifoy has the rare athletic skill set, so he could be a high first-round pick and potentially the top cornerback in the draft class.
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