Spring Preview: Cornerbacks

The inexperience of the Florida cornerbacks in 2011 will only benefit the team going forward. That starts this spring. The Gators threw Marcus Roberson into the fire last year and got positive results from him. With his status uncertain for spring practice, it will produce more open reps for younger players that are fighting for time on the field.

Marcus Roberson (SO, 6-0, 184) didn't have the eye-popping statistics as a freshman, but he played well and improved throughout the season. He intercepted one pass on a busted screen against Georgia and recorded two pass breakups. He also recorded one fumble. Roberson made 22 tackles and added half a tackle for a loss.

He came to campus in the summer before the 2011 season and had just the fall practices to prepare. Despite that, Roberson still earned a starting spot in the first game of the season. This would be his first spring practice on campus, and if healthy, would go a long way into his progression. Roberson kept the starting job until a neck injury he suffered at South Carolina ended his season. Muschamp said during the season that Roberson strained his neck and was expected to return for spring practice.

Even if he isn't able to return for the spring, Roberson is expected to recover fully and start at cornerback in the fall.

The cornerback spot opposite of Roberson was a revolving door during the 2011 season. When the year came to an end, it was Jaylen Watkins (JR, 6-0, 187) that was seeing most of the playing time at the second cornerback spot.

Watkins finished the season ninth on the team with 34 tackles. Though he didn't record an interception, Watkins had five pass breakups and his play improved throughout the season. He looked overwhelmed and out of place during the beginning of the season, but as the year went on, Watkins turned into a trusted part of the secondary.

Consistency is the most important part of the spring for Watkins. He needs to carry the positive strides from the end of the season into spring practice.

Cody Riggs (JR, 5-9, 179) had a reverse season of Watkins. He started the season as a consistent contributor despite his lack of size. As the year went on, Watkins started to take some of his playing time. Riggs ended the year with 31 tackles and two pass breakups. He had 1.5 tackles for a loss and half of a sack.

Some of his struggles aren't anything he can control. The 5-9 listing, which might actually be generous, forces him to struggle with taller receivers. Riggs also doesn't have elite speed and relies on instincts to be in position. Riggs needs to add some strength and improve his technique this spring. For a player that can't lean on his size very much, he needs to be as strong as possible in the instinctual part of the game.

The wildcard is Jeremy Brown (RSO, 5-10, 187). He started ten games in 2010 as a redshirt freshman but a knee injury kept him out of the 2011 season. Brown received a medical redshirt year from the NCAA. If he is healthy and can go through spring drills, Brown could make a run at the cornerback position opposite of Roberson.

He showed off his playmaking ability in 2010. Brown brings something to the cornerback position that isn't on the roster. He is aggressive and can change the game in one play. The Florida cornerbacks as a unit had only one interception in 2011, and it came on the botched Georgia screen that Roberson caught.

Brown had three interceptions and five pass breakups in 2010. One of his interceptions came against Kentucky and was returned 52 yards for a touchdown. The key to his spring is getting on the field and staying there.

Loucheiz Purifoy (SO, 6-1, 183) played in every game as a freshman in 2011. Most of his action came on special teams, as he led the Gators with 22 special teams tackles. He made multiple tackles in six games.

Purifoy saw a lot of playing time in the Gator Bowl against Ohio State, where he forced a fumble. Purifoy has the ideal height that Will Muschamp wants at cornerback. If he can take his technique at cornerback to another level this spring, Purifoy has to potential to earn a lot of playing time.

Willie Bailey (FR, 6-2, 160) will use the spring to get accustomed to college. The most important part for Bailey might actually come in the weight room. He needs add strength before getting time at cornerback for the Gators. Bailey could be a candidate to play on special teams in the fall.

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