The position battle at cornerback may be one of the most open on the Florida Gators roster. There’s experience, youth and youth with experience, but anyone could steal playing time at any moment.
Here’s the rundown of the returning cornerbacks that were on the roster in 2011:
Jeremy Brown, RJR, 0 games, 0 starts*
Loucheiz Purifoy, FR, 13 games, 0 starts
Cody Riggs, SO, 13 games, 10 starts
Marcus Roberson, FR, 10 games, 10 starts
Jaylen Watkins, SO, 13 games, 8 starts
*Brown received a medical redshirt in 2011 and will be a redshirt junior again in 2012. He appeared in 11 games and started 10 in 2010.
You can ask just about anyone and they will tell you Roberson will occupy one side during the 2012 season. Although his play was shaky at times during his freshman season in 2011, he is the most talented corner on the roster and should excel in 2012 with a better grasp of the defense.
The other side is up for grabs. The Gators aren’t sure what they have in Brown. Injured for much of his career, Brown is a talented player that just can’t stay healthy. Both Riggs and Watkins have gained experience while playing plenty, but neither is seen as a lock opposite Roberson and both may be better suited for the nickel back role. Then you have Purifoy.
A special teams standout in 2011, Purifoy was held back by a hamstring injury and didn’t get a chance to earn playing time in the secondary early. As the season progressed, opportunities increased and now he finds himself with a great chance to earn a starting nod. Of all the talents Purifoy possesses – speed being a big one – his confidence may be the most important.
A cornerback has to be cocky to a certain extent. Let’s be honest, all athletes have to be, but Purifoy plays one of those positions where you specifically are targeted. Not only is a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver, he’s throwing at you. He’s daring you to make a play. That doesn’t faze Purifoy and could be one of the key reasons why he could be lined up on the field for the opening snap of the 2012 season.
Florida needs help at a number of positions and cornerback is one. Purifoy has pushed Riggs and Watkins and will get pushed by incoming freshman Brian Poole. Anyone could come out on top, but the new No. 15 is making his case and doing it well.