Muschamp speaks on position changes

Spring practice is about growth and improvement, but it also allows the Florida coaching staff to try some players at different positions. This year will be no different, as head coach Will Muschamp announced those changes on Tuesday afternoon. The Gators will try to improve weaker spots on the roster by moving players from some of the stronger positions.

When the Gators were searching desperately for playmakers last year, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy made the switch to offense for some plays. He was mostly used on reverses to take advantage of his speed when the defense was off-balance. The goal this spring is to make him more versatile.

Purifoy will spend the first seven days of spring practice working as a full-time wide receiver. This will allow him to get accustomed to the position and used to being involved in the offense.

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease noted that Purifoy's biggest impact will come on the defensive side, but they'll still plug him in to get the ball in his hands.

"It would be good for him to go through the first seven days," Will Muschamp said. "It also gives us an opportunity on defense for Bryan Poole and Jeremy Brown, a guy for the last two years that hasn't taken as many reps to get as many turns and reps as they can. I really think it helps us on both sides of the ball as we move forward.

"(Opponents) watch our film, too, so you can't always just put Loucheiz in and throw a screen or run a reverse with him every time he's in the game. We need to expand his package if we're going to continue to move forward with that."

Dominique Easley will be used wherever the team needs him. He's listed as a defensive end on the first depth chart, but if the coaches see improvement from the other defensive ends on the roster, Easley will slide inside to play defensive tackle.

It's all about finding the best fit on the defensive line for the senior.

"He may show up tomorrow and may be a tackle," Muschamp said. "It's going to be depending on who our best four guys are and our best combination of players. And he's certainly going to be one of those four. Where he ends up really depends on the other guys."

There were also some answers at linebacker on the spring depth chart. Antonio Morrison, now up to 229 pounds, will start the spring at middle linebacker with Michael Taylor at WILL linebacker.

There isn't much of a difference between the two. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins played the spots last year and were able to switch positions without much of an adjustment. Morrison got a head start while playing WILL when Jenkins was out last season, but his talent should translate to MIKE, too.

"Our MIKE and WILL in regular personal mirrors," Muschamp said. "Our MIKE in dime have different coverage responsibilities, so we felt Antonio would be better served at the MIKE and Michael Taylor at the WILL, but we can always switch those guys back. In spring, it's about experimenting and looking at different things."

Quinteze Williams drew praise from Muschamp last year for his performance on the scout team, but he'll move to right tackle as spring practice begins. The 6-4, 280-pound redshirt freshman is listed second on the depth chart to open the spring.

"Quinteze Williams is a young man we wanted to move over to the offensive line, a guy that's got some size and girth to him," Muschamp said. "He's continued to gain weight. We felt like his opportunity as an offensive lineman were going to be better than on the defensive line, so he wanted to make that move."

Brian Cox, Jr. made the move from linebacker to defensive end in the offseason. He gained 25 pounds during his redshirt season and the coaches thought he would be a better fit adding depth to the defensive end position.

"Brian Cox Jr. is up to 260, a guy that played linebacker for us last season," Muschamp said. "He's worked awful hard and had a good offseason. He's changed his body and I'm real pleased with his work ethic."

The coaches also felt the need to add some depth to the fullback position. Hunter Joyer has been healthy during his first two seasons, but the Gators can't take a risk of changing the offense if he is out. Muschamp wants to run a two-back system, so losing the fullback would be a big blow.

The way to change that is adding depth. The coaches decided to move redshirt freshman Rhaheim Ledbetter and redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe to fullback this offseason.

"Rhaheim played running back in high school, was very effective, catches the ball well," Muschamp said. "He's got lower body punch and power. Gideon has not contributed much for us on defense since he's been here and he deserves the opportunity to try and get into a situation to help us."

NO SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: The promotion to defensive coordinator for D.J. Durkin meant he would need to pass off his duties as special teams coach. After splitting that with linebackers coach last year, Durkin will now take over the defense.

Instead of hiring a replacement with special teams experience, Muschamp elected to split up special teams duties among the staff.

Running backs coach Brian White will coach the punt team. Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson will handle kickoff coverage, punt block and punt return. First-year wide receivers coach Joker Phillips will handle kickoff returns.

"Really, all of us worked in those sections last year when D.J. kind of headed it up," Muschamp said. "We will all contribute as far as that's concerned with special teams."


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