BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
Saturday’s game between Miami and Florida features a plethora of NFL talent on the field. There are many great matchups to highlight, but the spotlight will be on Miami senior quarterback Stephon Morris facing at least three NFL-caliber defensive backs in the Gators secondary.
Another intriguing matchup will feature a physical Gators defensive front seven facing a solid Miami offensive line and superstar sophomore running back Duke Johnson. Since Johnson is not eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, my focus will be on six players who have a chance of being high draft selections in May 2014.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida, Jr. (6’, 190 lbs)
Purifoy is a player that is high on draft analysts’ radars as he enters his junior season, and rightfully so. He has a rare blend of size, athleticism, speed and physicality. He has the size and skill set of a potential shutdown cornerback in the NFL.
Purifoy is a standout for the Gators in a variety of ways. He contributes in all three facets of the game.
From the cornerback position, Purifoy excels in his ability to turn and run with anybody. He has extremely fluid hips and is a silky smooth athlete. When the ball is in the air, Purifoy competes well for positioning. When you couple his athleticism and ball skills, it is difficult to complete throws down the field against Purifoy.
This is evidenced in the frequency that Purifoy is left alone in man coverage for the Gators. Another dimension of Purifoy’s game is his ability to blitz from the corner position and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Technique on shorter routes is an area of concern for Purifoy, as he gives up too many receptions on shorter throws. He can get flat-footed and is unable to break on the ball as consistently well on intermediate to longer routes. Part of improving his ability to defend shorter routes will be developing his ability to jam at the line of scrimmage to throw off routes and timing with quarterbacks.
Purifoy played some offense for the Gators in 2012, and is expected to contribute even more on offense in 2013. The Gators hand him the ball on reverses and throw to him as a receiver on occasion.
He is also an exceptional special teams player. He excels as a gunner on the punt team with his ability to get down the field and make plays. In 2012, Purifoy had three forced fumbles on special teams plays alone while he also two kicks. He is also a capable return man.
He is the type of athlete with whom you do whatever you can to get him on the field and let him contribute. Purifoy looks like a first-round talent.
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida, Sr. (6’2’’, 285 lbs)
Easley is blossoming into one of the top defensive line prospects on the board for the 2014 NFL draft. In the Gators opening game of the season against Toledo, he looked unblockable.
Easley consistently wins with his excellent first step and ability to anticipate the snap. Blockers have fits with him since he’s able to control them at the point of attack. This leads to regular double-teams, which Easley can handle extremely well.
He plays with good leverage and consistent, solid technique. He uses his hands effectively and does not allow blockers to get under his pads. He is extremely strong and physical.
Easley doesn’t have great bend and flexibility at this point. While he can create pressure from the interior of the defensive line, he is not a dynamic edge rusher and he doesn’t have ideal length. He can overcome that with his sound technique, strength and quickness at the college level, but his lacking traits may be difficult to overcome in the NFL.
Nonetheless, if Easley’s first game against Toledo is an indication of how the rest of his season will go, he should be selected in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida, Jr. (6’, 195 lbs)
Roberson is another part of Florida’s formidable secondary. Coming off an excellent sophomore season in which he produced 12 pass breakups (second in SEC) and two interceptions, he is primed for a solid junior season and possible declaration for the 2014 draft.
As evidenced by his pass breakup numbers, Roberson has good ability to break on the football. He can mirror his opponent well and drive off his back foot to make plays. He has a good combination of short and long speed, and is solid at covering downfield on long routes.
Receivers have a difficult time getting a clean release off the line when Roberson is in bump and run. Like Purifoy, Roberson can effectively blitz off the edge and make plays in the backfield.
While Roberson is a very solid athlete, he is not quite as fluid as Purifoy and is a bit tight in the hips. Roberson is a willing tackler, but it is not a strength of his game. Receivers can easily block Roberson, and he must get better at shedding blocks to make tackles.
Roberson looks like a second-to-third round player right now, with plenty of upside to climb.
For a look at more prospects to watch in this game, go to Page 2.