Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Colleges

Ex-Wharton star Hargreaves makes immediate Gators impact

GAINESVILLE — When Vernon Hargreaves intercepted Toledo's Terrance Owens late in the third quarter and returned it 15 yards, not a single Florida player or coach was surprised.

The Gators have said all preseason the freshman from Tampa's Wharton High was a special player, and they fully anticipated he would make an impact fast.

"When we meet as a staff and we go into any game, especially the first game, we talk in terms of who are the guys we know we are going to play regardless. And he was one of those guys," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

"There was going to be no conversation about putting him in the game. There was no conversation. Vernon's a really good player."

Hargreaves was one of several newcomers making an impact Saturday, which had the veterans fired up.

"It's great to see those guys make plays," junior LB Ronald Powell said. "Like the interception from Hargreaves, that's great. It's great production."

PURIFOY'S PAIN: Junior LB Loucheiz Purifoy was among five players suspended for Saturday's game for a violation of team rules, joining LB Antonio Morrison, DL Darious Cummings, OL Quinteze Williams and WR Latroy Pittman.

All will return next week except Pittman, who is suspended for two more games.

Junior CB Jaylen Watkins said Purifoy's suspension was due to his arrest in the spring (charges were later dropped) and said it was tough for Purifoy to sit out.

"Loucheiz is a good kid. And he made a mistake, and he's ready to get back with us this week," Watkins said. "He was happy for us out there, helping us with the calls and things that he saw. He didn't back away from the situation. He's a competitor. Loucheiz doesn't like to miss any snap in football that we're playing."

Friday, several media outlets reported freshman DL Jay-nard Bostwick was among the suspended, but he was not. Muschamp lashed out Saturday, saying he had to console Bostwick's emotional mother and calling it "shoddy and irresponsible" journalism.

When asked why he didn't announce the suspensions once news starting leaking, Muschamp said he planned to do so before Saturday's game and didn't want to deviate.

PRICE TO PAY: With SEC game times now determined by the league office and its deal with ESPN and the SEC Networks, kickoffs run the gamut. And Florida might have discovered just how costly that might be — at least in terms of attendance.

The Gators had 8,700 unsold tickets against Toledo, and there were large sections of empty seats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

For the players, it's not something they can worry about.

"It's our job to fill (the stadium) up," Powell said. "The people that were here today are great Gator fans. And not to say the people that were unfortunate enough to not be able to come (are not), but it's up to us. They'll see, and those seats will be filled. It's up to us."

Added Watkins: "We play for the people that are there. We love Gator Nation and our fans. We'll play in front of 10 people if we have to."

Welcome back: Powell, who missed all of 2012 with two torn left ACLs, had a sack and three quarterback hurries.

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