Purifoy to play both ways at Florida

Published On: Mar 19 2013 06:56:30 PM EDT
Gators two-way player Luchez Purifoy
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -

Loucheiz Purifoy's move to offense is not just a spring experiment.
   
Florida coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday that the 6-foot-1 junior cornerback will have an expanded role as a receiver this fall, making him the program's first two-way player since Keiwan Ratliff in 2002.
   
Ratliff, primarily a cornerback, caught just four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown that year.
   
Given the Gators' lack of talent and depth at receiver, Purifoy could have a much more significant impact in 2013.
   
"He needs to be in really, really good shape," Muschamp said.
   
And he wasn't kidding.
   
In addition to cornerback and receiver, Purifoy will be a key player on special teams. Switching to offense, though, wasn't by choice.
   
"At first, I didn't want to play it," Purifoy admitted Tuesday. "I'm kind of getting back into the groove of it now, and it's kind of fun."
   
Still, it hasn't always been easy.
   
His defensive teammates have razed him every time he lines up across from them, and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson chided him during an open practice last week for complaining about defensive holding, saying, "Oh, you're going to be one of those guys now," Robinson yelled.
   
Purifoy started 12 games last season, finishing fourth on the team with 51 tackles. He also had five pass breakups and a game-changing blocked punt in the final seconds against Louisiana-Lafayette.
   
So why the move?
   
"I'm a competitor and my speed," said Purifoy, who played both ways as a senior at Pine Forest High in Pensacola. "Speed kills and that's what (Muschamp) likes. He likes competition. He's likes physical people. That's what I bring to the table."
   
Nonetheless, it's strange position to be in for one of the country's top programs - mainly because the change was based mostly on need.
   
Florida lost four of its top six pass-catchers from last season. Tight end Jordan Reed, who led the team in receptions and yards, entered the NFL draft after his junior season. Receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., running back Mike Gillislee and versatile H-back Omarius Hines graduated.
   
Left with a receiving corps that includes Trey Burton, Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar, Latroy Pittman and Raphael Andrades, Muschamp started looking for help - and a legitimate deep threat.
   
Purifoy was the easy choice.
   
He played only a few downs on offense last season, finishing with one reception for 5 yards and one carry for 8 yards, but his quick feet, nifty moves and sure hands made him a perfect candidate to make the switch.
   
So Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease decided to make Purifoy a receiver for the first seven practices of spring.
   
"We're trying to introduce concepts to him, whether it's playing outside, in the slot, to be able to expand his role midseason instead of just sending him over and saying, 'OK, you've got these three plays when you're in the game,'" Muschamp said. "Once you run those three plays in the first quarter, they're kind of on to what's going on. We want to expand what he can do at receiver.
   
"I don't think it's diminishing his skill at all as a corner."
   
Purifoy will switch back to other side of the ball following Saturday's scrimmage.
   
"I go back to my comfort zone," Purifoy said. "I enjoy helping the offense, but the defense is where I belong."
   
Come fall, though, he'll do both.
   
And teammates know why.
   
"Just because he has a motor that a lot of people don't have," fellow cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. "He embraces stuff that could potentially look hard to some people. He wants to play special teams. He doesn't want to come out. He wants to play 50 (plays) on defense, 50 on offense. That's the things he likes to do."

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