Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday through Jan. 31, 2013, GatorNation will break down each position. We’ll look at 2013, of course, but also try and give you a peek beyond next season, too. Today is cornerback. We will profile safeties on Jan. 3.
Two-deep: The Gators have a three-man rotation of sophomore Marcus Roberson, junior Jaylen Watkins and sophomore Loucheiz Purifoy. Freshman Brian Poole has gotten more playing time as the season has progressed. That likely wouldn’t have happened, however, had junior Cody Riggs not missed the final 10 games of the season with a broken bone in his foot. Roberson leads the team with 12 pass breakups and had two interceptions. Watkins has three interceptions and eight pass breakups, while Purifoy has five pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
Next up: Redshirt junior Jeremy Brown, who has battled injuries throughout his career and missed seasons because of back and knee injuries, has played sparingly this season. Poole has played in every game on special teams and in spots on defense. The coaching staff is excited about Poole’s potential and has been cross-training him at cornerback and safety.
High-profile commits: The Gators have just one commit at cornerback, but it’s a good one -- Vernon Hargreaves III. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hargreaves, from Tampa, Fla./Wharton, is the nation’s top-ranked cornerback and UF’s only five-star recruit.
Additional targets: UF would like to sign another corner, and the top target is 6-0, 190-pound Jalen Ramsey from Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood, a Southern California commitment. The Gators also are pursuing Mackensie Alexander from Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee. The 5-11, 175-pound Alexander is the nation’s No. 2 corner.
Looking into 2013: Cornerback is perhaps the most stable position on the team, and it’ll be hard for anyone to crack the Roberson-Purifoy-Watkins rotation. Roberson has improved his awareness and ball skills this season, while Watkins has developed into the Gators’ best corner thanks to his better understanding of the defense.
The most intriguing player is Purifoy. He’s UF’s most physical corner, but he’s also going to spend some time at receiver. He has the build (6-1, 186), long arms and speed, but he’s raw as a route runner. It’ll be interesting to see what the Gators do with him next season. If Riggs returns and plays well, Poole continues to develop, and Hargreaves lives up to the hype, then it may be tempting for the staff to have Purifoy spend more time on offense than anticipated -- especially if the receivers continue to be underwhelming.
Riggs, Watkins and Poole also could play safety, so the staff has plenty of options.