GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Every spring there are a few players who stand out and appear to be headed for big seasons the following fall -- but when August rolls around they plummet down the depth chart and disappear.
Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy isn't going to be one of those.
UF coach Will Muschamp said the 6-foot-1, 186-pound sophomore already would have been a standout heading into the 2012 season had he not been hampered by a hamstring pull during 2011 preseason practices, an injury which stunted his development and didn't allow him to flourish until the latter part of the season.
"He missed a considerable amount of time, on top of being a freshman," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "So from a standpoint of learning and knowledge of the system, it put him behind.
"He was probably our best special teams player. He's a guy early in the year that we targeted and said, 'This guy is really playing well. We've got to find a way to get him on the field at corner.' And as the season continued to progress, we finally got to it. We probably should have done it earlier."
Purifoy played mainly on special teams early in the season and finished the regular season with a team-high 22 special teams tackles. But he got more and more playing time on defense as the year progressed, and injuries in the secondary put him on the field for the majority of the Gator Bowl at corner.
By that time, though, he was comfortable on defense after playing on both sides of the ball at Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest High School.
"When I first came here I was an offensive player, so adjusting to defense was hard," Purifoy said. "The coaches worked with me, and I've gotten it pretty fast."
He continued to progress in the spring. He played well enough to win a starting job at corner opposite fellow sophomore Marcus Roberson, although he's going to have to hold off junior Jaylen Watkins in preseason practices to be the starter on Sept. 1 against Bowling Green.
The coaching staff likes his mix of speed and strength, and paired with Roberson (6-0, 180) he gives the Gators their biggest set of corners in a while.
"He's a guy that can run on the top end. He can finish plays," Muschamp said. "He's got great ball skills and instincts. He's got all the critical factors you talk about in evaluating a defensive back, especially the corner position."
Including confidence. When he was handed No. 15, Purifoy never worried about being the first person to wear that number just months after the departure of Tim Tebow, one of the greatest college football players of all time.
"To me it's a number," said Purifoy, who was not permitted to speak to the media as a freshman, according to team policy. "I'm proud to be wearing it. I'm glad he wore it, but a number don't make the player."
But the fact that he was wearing it did generate some comments from friends and teammates.
"They just said I got a lot of big shoes to fill," he said.
He seems to be well on his way to doing that.