In this week's run-up to the 2014 NFL Draft, we'll be publishing Trevor Sikkema's profiles of Florida's NFL aspirants. We continue with cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.
Loucheiz Deouncelonte Purifoy. (Yes, that's actually his middle name.) Also goes by "Chez". Was the recipient of Matt Elam's famous hit after a special teams tackle made in the 2012 Florida-LSU game in The Swamp. Chose Florida over Alabama. (Bold move!) Was a top track athlete in high school and could've gone on to play college basketball had he not chose football.
Right from the get-go, Florida knew it had an athlete on their hands with Loucheiz Purifoy. The Gators showed it by playing ‘Chez in all 13 of the team's games his freshman season — mostly in special teams situations. He recorded a special-teams best 22 tackles during his first season, and even forced a fumble during the team's 2012 Gator Bowl win.
As changes were made and the 2012 offseason ran its course, it was clear Will Muschamp viewed Purifoy's athletic ability as something the team had to take advantage of, in any way they could. Purifoy thrived on playing within a defense with hitters and physical players, like Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Jelani Jenkins, and Jon Bostic. In 2012 he played in all 13 games, recording three forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and 51 total tackles. He caused two of his three forced fumbles in the same game against South Carolina, and his blocked punt against Louisiana helped give Florida the victory late in the year.
By his junior season, it was time for Purifoy to grow into more than just a special teams player. Purifoy played in 11 of the team's 12 games and started seven of them at cornerback. He recorded the first interceptions of his career in his last year, snagging two, one of them coming against the almighty Jameis Winston.
But off-the-field misdeeds may be what truly leaves Purifoy in a bad spot come Draft weekend. He was arrested for possession of marijuana in 2013, though the charge was later dropped; he was suspended for the first game of the 2013 season for a violation of team rules; he was reported to have been caught with drugs again in March 2014, though he avoided being arrested by agreeing to work as an informant ... only to later renege on that deal.
In a career filled with so many highs and lows for the underclassman, it's a shame that the last part of his time in Gainesville will be viewed with so much confusion and uncertainty.
Going into his junior season, Purifoy was going to get his chance to show off his body length and athletic ability at the cornerback position. If the transition went smoothly, the first round was within reach, according to a few nationally respected draft writers. That transition did not go smoothly.
Purifoy made a living out of being more athletic than the special teams players he went up against during his first two seasons. But when asked to translate his athletic ability into understanding correct coverage adjustments, he struggled.
He's a confident cornerback, and confidence is something all top corners need, but it seemed to get him in trouble when his responsibilities grew in 2013. When going up against a few NFL-type wide receiver prospects in the SEC, like Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt and Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU, and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State, Purifoy failed to match those players — not in athleticism, but in an understanding of what it takes to properly defend a top wide receiver.
If Purifoy goes up against a receiver who is one-dimensional in his skill as a speed receiver or possession receiver, he can handle them with his length. However, if he is ever in a situation where a veteran receiver can throw a variety of routes and looks at him, he's shown he's not ready to be trusted one-on-one.
Purifoy's best chance to market himself is in his 5'11" frame and long arms. After running a disappointing 4.61 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, scouts probably don't trust his athletic ability as much as they did before. And his final knock is his mass: At just 190 pounds, Purifoy doesn't present a solid body for sound tackling.
My take on Purifoy is simple: He's a talented kid who's not ready for the NFL.
I thought the first round talk with Purifoy was crazy. (I thought the same for Marcus Roberson, but we'll get to that later.) He shows good promise as a special teams player for sure, but it's hard watching him leave early knowing his time as a student of the game was far from NFL ready.
Part of me believes Purifoy had to declare, because Vernon Hargreaves III was going to start at corner for sure and standout cornerback prospect Jalen Tabor was joining the team as well, leaving not much room for Purifoy as an outside corner.
But that's where I think this process has been bad to Purifoy all along, something that was backed up by what a scout said at Florida's Pro Day. When you hear "first-round corner," you think of a player who matches up against a top receiver, but that was never Purifoy's game. Purifoy is, at this point, a nickel corner with great production as a special teams player, and he makes plays in blitz packages and special situations with taller receivers. I hope the team who drafts him lets him be that, and brings him along as a premier corner if it can.
I haven't seen Purifoy on any lists for team visits, but I know his stock was low after his workout at Florida's Pro Day. As of now, he's a former first-round hopeful just hoping for an early Day 3 selection.