Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators foster competition at cornerback

GAINESVILLE — When fall practice began 12 days ago, Florida coach Will Muschamp knew his quarterback competition was going to be intense. As it turns out, the quarterbacks are not alone.

Another battle has ensued between sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy and juniors Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs for the starting cornerback position. Through the first 1 ½ weeks of camp, the four have shared equal reps with the No. 1 defense.

"It's very intense," said Watkins, who started eight games last season. "We're all scrapping right now, trying to get the ball, make big plays, tackling. It's all down to every small centimeter. We're all trying to do everything right, which is making us all better. It definitely keeps you from being complacent."

After one full scrimmage Saturday, Muschamp said, like the quarterbacks, the cornerback position is too close to call.

"Those guys have all done a good job," he said. "Right now, Marcus, Loucheiz, Jaylen and Cody are all competing. Cody's playing some nickel safety for us. Pop (Saunders) is probably our third safety. Pop's playing all over the place. He's playing our third safety and really, he's probably our fifth corner. And he also can play inside. But those guys are all competing."

Competition is so fierce at the position, players who compete against them daily on offense have taken notice.

"It's a competitive battle, from period-to-period, play-to-play," senior receiver Frankie Hammond Jr., said.

"Nobody's job is safe. If somebody messes up, there's somebody else right behind them to go in. So it just keeps the guy that's in front to stay on his toes because if you slip up, somebody else is coming in for you."

Of the four, Roberson and Riggs are the most experienced. Riggs has played in 26 games, with 13 starts. Roberson was the Gators' top cornerback as a freshman last season, but after 10 starts, he suffered a neck injury against South Carolina and missed the rest of the season.

"Our medical staff was great, so we were able to get through it," Roberson said. "I ran into a couple of people in the spring, and I don't even feel like I was hurt."

The Gators were 10th of 12 in the SEC in total defense last season but were No. 3 in the league in pass defense, with eight interceptions. Roberson said he believes depth will help improve those numbers.

"We'll get more rest and we'll be fresh every time we get on the field," he said.

This time last year, nearly every conversation with Muschamp included some talk about "cross-training" and the need to have players learn multiple positions — just in case of injury. It was a clear sign of how little quality depth he had at some of the most critical positions.

Talk has changed this fall, and Muschamp believes the depth that has fostered this competition can only be good for the Gators.

"Competing is what's making our team better," he said. "It's been a good competition for them all.

"They've all had opportunities where they've all made plays and big plays for us. Brian Poole was one of the interceptions (in Saturday's scrimmage). Loucheiz and Marcus had the other two. So, again, I feel very comfortable with where we are at that position right now. It's where you should be at Florida at corner."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Florida Gators foster competition at cornerback 08/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. DeSean Jackson's 'Ferrari engine' brings him to first Bucs camp

    Bucs

    TAMPA — When the Bucs signed Pro Bowl WR DeSean Jackson in the offseason, QB Jameis Winston said his new target was "a Bentley with a Ferrari engine," a nod to Jackson's 5-foot-10 frame but elite speed.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson sits for an interview while on camera with NFL Films.   HBO's NFL Films production of "Hard Knocks" documented a day in the life of Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson with his family at their home in Tampa on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
  2. What you should know about new Rays slugger Lucas Duda

    Blogs

    The MLB trade deadline is a few days away, but the Rays aren't procrastinating. Earlier today, they swung a deal for the Mets' Lucas Duda, sending minor league right-hander Drew Smith

    Slugger Lucas Duda will add some (more) power to the Rays lineup.
  3. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  4. Bucs do their best to stiff-arm the expectations

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If you want to see a team giving the Heisman trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    As always, the key to the Bucs success will be Jameis Winston. He still is only 23, but a charismatic leader that this team and this town believes deeply in. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations

    Bucs

    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.

    2008

    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]