Expect Freshmen Corners to Play

Florida's new head football coach Will Muschamp has made no bones about his willingness to play younger players. Muschamp signed a solid first class at Florida, and combined with a pretty young roster overall, Muschamp really doesn't have much of a choice. The Gators signed four cornerbacks in the 2011 recruiting class and expect them to play an important part in their first year.

Will Muschamp understands the issues that a young guy can face when thrown to the wolves in his college career. Experience allows for a comfort that sometimes cannot be taught.

"A lot of times playing as a freshman has to do with maturity," Muschamp told a crowd of Gator fans on his tour of Gator clubs. "How well they handle a new system and a new environment… it doesn't always have to do with ability. I've seen a lot of times where guys have a lot of ability, but they walk out there in front of 90,000 and aren't ready for that yet."

Florida's head coach plans on using players early that can help more for the entire season, and that with the experience will be the better player by midseason and beyond.

"Playing as a freshman is interesting," Muschamp said. "You get to that 12th, 13th, or 14th practice in training camp and you have to make a decision. That freshman may not be best for you at that time. Is he going to be best for you in game six? Is he going to make you a better football team, or be better on that roster in game six? Those are the tough decisions you have as a coach. A lot of them don't know up from down at that time, but athletically they may be better than what you've got. Then, psychologically, how well will they adjust when school starts."

Muschamp is also a follower of the theory that skill players on the outside will usually have an easier and quicker time adjusting to the playing field.

"A lot of times playing as a freshman has to do with maturity and a lot of times playing as a freshman has to do with position," he said. "Generally with my experience, and this isn't full proof… the further the position plays away from the ball (snap), the better chance you have to play as a freshman. As a corner or wide out, your athleticism is going to take over because our further away from the ball and have more time to react."

All of this lends itself to the four freshmen cornerbacks the Gators signed getting a real shot to play in the fall. Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Pop Saunders, and Valdez Showers were part of the best cornerback class in the country coming out of high school and all have tools that could land them on the field early in their college careers.

Saunders was able to graduate early from high school and showed up on campus in January. It enabled him to compete for most of the spring until he was injured with a few practices left.

"For a guy that hasn't ever played defensive back before, he really has natural instincts for the position," Muschamp said. "For a guy that came in mid-year I was very pleased with his progress and he has a great opportunity to get on the field for us. He is an outstanding athlete and is a guy that has a lot of natural instincts for the position as far as playing the ball down the field, toughness, can play in space, can run, and he has great ball skills."

Probably the two most physical of the bunch are Showers and Roberson. Both are at least six feet tall and with big physical builds. Muschamp likes his corners to be physical and athletically they fit what the staff wants to do.

"Valdez Showers and Marcus Roberson, those are guys that figure in that mix," Muschamp said. "If they are ready we will play them. I don't care if you are a freshman or a senior, or how many stars you have by your name. If you can contribute and play well for the Gators, we are going to play you."

Purifoy is 6-1, lighting fast, and smooth. He actually brings a different kind of talent to the mix and Muschamp will be ready to give him a shot as well.

"Loucheiz Purifoy is an outstanding athlete," Muschamp said. "We are excited to have him in our program."

The Gators lost starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins from the 2010 team. Jeremy Brown played some and started a game or two as did Cody Riggs and Moses Jenkins. Going into fall camp, Brown and Jenkins are the starters, Riggs will definitely be counted on and redshirt sophomore Jaylen Watkins was moved back from safety after the spring to provide more depth.

The key here is lack of experience and numbers and so the freshman corners will get their chance.

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