Florida will be without three more players for its season opener, including do-everything cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, thanks to suspensions for a variety of violations of team rules, according to multiple reports, the earliest from Gator Country.
Gator Country and Scout's Bob Redman each reported players missing in their subscriber forums on Friday, with Gator Country mentioning Purifoy among the suspended players. 247Sports' Luke Stampini reported the players are Purifoy, defensive tackle Darious Cummings, and wide receiver Latroy Pittman in a subscriber forum Friday evening; Gator Country confirmed those names and added those of defensive lineman Jaynard Bostwick and offensive lineman Quinteze Williams. Additionally, Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post confirmed the five new names, and reported that Purifoy and Pittman are missing the game thanks to failed drug tests. (Purifoy was arrested on a marijuana possession charge in February that was later dropped.)
Florida announced four of the suspensions on Saturday, confirming every name from Friday's reports except for Bostwick's.
Purifoy is the only one of the players who appears as a starter on Florida's official depth chart for Saturday's game, and appears only as a co-starter at cornerback with Jaylen Watkins. Watkins should fill in, and admirably, for Purifoy in the secondary, while other players — Solomon Patton and Chris Thompson at kick returner, and Marcus Roberson, Trey Burton, and Brian Poole at punt returner — were slotted ahead of Purifoy on special teams.
Where Florida might miss Purifoy most on Saturday, if at all, is on kick coverage and in kick- and punt-blocking packages: After all, he did smother the Louisiana punt that was subsequently recovered by Jelani Jenkins for the game-winning touchdown in a far-too-close win over the Ragin' Cajuns last fall.
The rest of the suspensions, for the most part, serve to make Florida a little less deep at the positions affected. Pittman was unlikely to play much, having fallen off the depth chart of late. He also sent a tweet on Thursday that might be connected to his suspension:
Its crazy how the lowest place u cud ever imagine being is the very hand u dealt urself #backagainstdaropes— Latroy Pittman (@Pitt_2time) August 29, 2013
But Cummings, who was more circumspect in his Twitter acknowledgement of his suspension, was listed as a backup at defensive tackle, and would probably have gotten 10-15 snaps.
Now, Florida will have just five defensive linemen who mostly train as tackles available — Dominique Easley, Leon Orr, Damien Jacobs, Caleb Brantley, and Joey Ivie — and Brantley and Ivie are true freshmen. But Easley is and was likely to handle most of the snaps at tackle anyway, and has the versatility necessary to play both 3-technique and 5-technique positions as Florida switches up its front; Jonathan Bullard, listed as Florida's starter at end, will also likely slide inside to tackle to sop up some snaps.
It's not a death blow, but with Florida facing a Toledo running game that racked up 2,512 rushing yards in 2012 and returns leading rusher David Fluellen, it would've been nice to have all hands on deck. Instead, the Gators will head into their season opener missing five projected starters (Purifoy, the out-for-the-season Chaz Green, the still-recovering-from-a-viral-infection Matt Jones, the still-recovering-from-a-pectoral injury Jon Halapio, the also-suspended Antonio Morrison) and a handful of other contributors.
Launching their 2013 season against the Rockets just gets harder and harder, I guess.