Florida opens spring football practice on Wednesday, March 13, and will do so without many familiar faces on defense or proven playmakers on offense. So the Gators are moving around some players to different positions to better meet their needs and create depth.
Loucheiz Purifoy is the most prominent name moving: The fleet and physical cornerback is practicing at wide receiver in the spring as the Florida offense continues a search for difference-makers in the passing game. But we've known that Purifoy, who has the speed and hands to be a burner in the passing game and is one of many good corners the Gators will have, will practice on offense since January, and he's only playing receiver for the first seven days of spring practice; Will Muschamp told reporters Purifoy will still play corner in the fall.
The more important news today is about other players' position changes.
Most prominent among them is the move of Cody Riggs, who began 2012 as Florida's nickel cornerback before being injured against Texas A&M and missing the regular season, to safety. Florida has no players with starts at safety in its secondary — Matt Elam and Josh Evans held those positions and missed no time for much of the last three years — and Riggs has decent size and speed for the position.
Riggs' move helps free up other safeties to play different position, and so safety Rhaheim Ledbetter (and linebacker Gideon Ajagbe) will practice at fullback, where Ledbetter's hitter's mentality and Ajagbe's size (he's 6'3" and over 240 pounds) might be better fits for a team with significant depth in the secondary and at linebacker.
That new surfeit of fullbacks will push Trey Burton to wide receiver full-time, it seems, with Burton now listed at the F wide receiver position.
Depth on the defensive line as provided by JUCO transfers will also help put Quinteze Williams to good use, as Williams is moving from the defensive line to offensive tackle. Max Garcia will slide from offensive tackle to offensive guard.
Dominique Easley will train at both defensive end and defensive tackle in the spring, playing both the tackle position that allows him to best use his exceptional quickness and the end position that might be a better fit for him at the NFL level.
Similarly, Antonio Morrison, who spent a year playing quite well at outside linebacker, is headed to inside linebacker, switching spots with Michael Taylor. Morrison is bigger and Taylor faster, so the moves make sense.
And, finally, Bryan Cox, Jr. is moving from BUCK to defensive end, though I doubt he sees the field much in the fall against SEC competition. There's too much talent in front of him for him to be given a lot of meaningful snaps.
Of these, I suspect the most consequential is Riggs' move, as Purifoy will likely moonlight on offense and play on defense in the fall; Riggs is good enough to start in the secondary somewhere, and listing him as a starter at safety indicates that the Gators are not comfortable with touted rising sophomore Marcus Maye taking over in the defensive backfield just yet.
Riggs and Jabari Gorman are listed as Florida's starting safeties, with Marcus Roberson and Jeremy Brown listed at one corner position. Brian Poole, a physical corner in Purifoy's vein, is listed as Florida's starting nickel back, and as Jaylen Watkins' backup at the other boundary corner position.
Expect those names and those positions to see the most flux in spring and fall practice, especially with the introductions of Vernon Hargreaves III and Marcell Harris to the mix.