Ask Alligator Army: Surprise starters, Mack Brown, and hiding Loucheiz Purifoy's role

Sam Greenwood

As the season nears, the questions get a little more concrete. And yet we're still talking about surprises and hype.

We get letters. Send your queries to the Alligator Army Mailbag by using #AskAlligatorArmy or tweeting at @AlligatorArmy, dropping us a line on Facebook, or emailing AlligatorArmy@gmail.com.

So here's how I imagine Florida is going to start out against Toledo.

On offense: Jeff Driskel under center, Hunter Joyer in the backfield, Mack Brown at halfback, Quinton Dunbar and/or Trey Burton at receiver, Clay Burton and/or Tevin Westbrook at tight end, and D.J. Humphries, Max Garcia, Jonotthan Harrison, Kyle Koehne, and Tyler Moore from left to right on the line.

On defense: Dominique Easley, Leon Orr, Jonathan Bullard, and Dante Fowler up front; Ronald Powell, Michael Taylor, and Neiron Ball at linebacker; and Marcus Roberson, Marcus Maye, Cody Riggs, and Loucheiz Purifoy in the secondary. You could pull Taylor off and add Jaylen Watkins or Brian Poole as a nickel corner if you want.

The defense probably isn't going to have a surprise starter, though Vernon Hargreaves III would be my pick for on ; the offense, depending on what formation it wants to run, very well could. What if Florida comes out in the shotgun or pistol spread, with Demarcus Robinson or Valdez Showers on the field? An extra tackle could trot out if Florida really wants to establish Brown early. And if Brent Pease wants to get really crazy, Loucheiz Purifoy starting Florida's first game at wide receiver (especially if he were playing a decoy on the play) would be fantastic.

In short: Look to the offense, which started Jeff Driskel at wide receiver last year on the first play of the season, to provide the surprise, if there is one.

Yeah, we probably are. Brown wasn't chopped liver coming to Florida; he just got stuck in the same Charlie Weis trap — utilizing Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey to the detriment of other talents — that Mike Gillislee did in 2011, and stuck behind Rainey and the bigger, stronger Jones in 2012.

Could Brown, given 12 starts behind a line that is good to very good, run for 1,000 yards? I don't think so. Could he run for 750, or 800? Yeah, probably. I don't think he's without the talent one needs to get between four and five yards per carry reliably against most teams.

But what made Gillislee (and Demps and Rainey) special, and what makes Jones and Kelvin Taylor and Showers special, is that they all brought or bring more to the table than that reliable 4.1 YPC. Gillslee never lost yardage; Demps and Rainey hit home runs; Jones can push piles and make catches; Taylor can find seams for eight to 10-yard gains. We have no idea if Mack Brown can do that, really.

We'll probably have a better idea after Saturday ... and with Jones likely back for the Miami game, it may not end up mattering.

Technically, this wasn't a mailbag question, but whatever: There is, at this point, no point to hiding the fact that Loucheiz Purifoy is going to play offense this fall. It has been widely, widely reported. It is one of the more compelling storylines of this Florida team. Purifoy is listed as a DB/WR on the offical team roster. He played snaps on offense — even made a catch! — last year.

If Florida's got anything to hide in re: Purifoy, it did it successfully in its four open practices, when the only hints of the Swiss Army corner playing offense were the moments when fans confused Tim Parrish's No. 15 jersey for Purifoy's. Those were the times when it made sense not to show which particular roles Purifoy would play, whether he'd line up in the backfield or come across the field on sweepts — I expect both over the course of the year, by the way. Not talking about Purifoy playing offense isn't going to magically trick other teams into forgetting the months spent talking about Purifoy playing offense.

Also, it is helpful when play-calling and game-planning work in your favor, but it is incredibly hard to maintain an advantage bestowed by secrecy for three or four months. Florida's going to win or lose games based on whether the 11 Gators on the field are better than the 11 (Insert Mascot)s, not based on whether Brent Pease acknowledged Loucheiz Purifoy might play a little offense.

Not that I didn't kind of answer this in the rather detailed preview of Florida's wide receivers and tight ends published earlier today, but I would be really surprised if Demarcus Robinson doesn't play a big role on offense this year, and I think Ahmad Fulwood gets double-digit catches, too.

But to make the point again: Robinson's no worse than the third receiver right now, and his skills are more like Quinton Dunbar's than Trey Burton's, which probably makes him the de facto second receiver. Even last year, when Florida's passing offense was horrific, the second-leading receiver on the team still had 38 catches, and that was with a go-to player around in Jordan Reed. No established go-to receiver means that Robinson (or Fulwood!) has a chance to become that guy.

If you want a position where the preseason hype won't be matched by the on-field production, try a different team. Everything fans and reporters saw in Florida's open practices jibes with all the reports and rumors about who's balling out and stalling out in the closed ones. There's just not a lot of smoke and mirrors to go around right now.

Star-divide

Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.

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