8/14: Durkin on Morrison and McMillian, limiting Purifoy, Gators young secondary talent

By Adam Silverstein
August 14, 2013

For the first time this fall, new Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday to discuss some of the latest developments concerning his side of the ball and the team in general.

M&M BOYS

Sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison made a big splash for the Gators as a true freshman in 2012, starting three games in place of Jelani Jenkins and finishing the year with 34 tackles and a big sack/forced fumble in the final regular season game against Florida State. Though Morrison will miss the first two games of the 2013 campaign (as of press time) for off-the-field incidents over the summer, he returned to practice last week and is already looking like his old self.

“The guy brings great energy to practice. He’s very physical. He loves playing football. He’s very into what he does. He’s got great respect from his teammates and coaches. He’s been a pro about it since he’s been back,” Durkin said on Wednesday.

“Everyone was excited to see him back out there. He’s their guy, one of their teammates, so they were excited when he came back. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but we had a great practice the day he came back. But we’ve had several great practices, so I don’t know how much that had to do with it. But we’re all happy to see him back.”

Like Morrison a year ago, freshman LB Daniel McMillian is earning some high praise from the coaching staff for his tenacious work ethic and eye-catching athletic ability. Durkin certainly notices the similarities between the two players.

“Those guys, they really want to learn the game. They’re hungry for more. They’re not just out there practicing and then move on and don’t think about it again,” he said. “They’re both in their playbooks a lot and watching film. They don’t want to be on the field and not know what they’re supposed to do because they’re competitive. They want to be in a spot where they’re going to go succeed, so they put the time in to do it.”

He continued: “D-Mac is a guy that competes and loves football. He is in the film room all the time. He’s always trying to get better, asking questions on the field and off the field. He really wants to be great. He wants to play and contribute and he will. You mix that with the ability level he has and you have something pretty special right there. We saw that going into the recruiting process with him, and that’s what we got here.”


LIMITING LOUCHEIZ

Already a starting cornerback for Florida and the most versatile player on the team, junior Loucheiz Purifoy will be pulled in a variety of different directions throughout the season. The Gators once again plan to use Purifoy on special teams as a gunner on coverage and are also working him on offense at wide receiver this week.

Durkin explained how Florida goes about limiting Purifoy’s game-by-game snaps.

“That’s one of those things you go to manage and control throughout the game. It depends about the situation, what the environment is, how hot it is and all those things. He’s a guy that we’re going to keep close track of that,” he said.

“His starting position or where he starts out, his home base is on defense at corner. We do the snaps accordingly. Even last year, without him playing really much offense at all – a couple snaps later in the year – we watched his snaps because he was a big special teams player for us. We had a snap count going throughout the game of how much he was playing on defense and special teams. Now you just throw another element in the mix and that won’t change much.

“The thing about Loucheiz is he’s a guy – obviously anyone needs breaks here and there to kind of get your wind back – but he can run all day. He’s a great competitor. He’s a hard guy to keep off the field. He wants to be out there, and we just got to be smart about that, and we will. We just got to watch that.”

Purifoy already playing three positions and doing so on an understandably limited snap count is exactly why it is unlikely that he returns kicks for the Gators, an idea proposed by many after redshirt senior Andre Debose was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament last week. The absolute last thing Florida needs to do is put Purifoy on the field for more plays, especially some of the most dangerous in the game of football.

TWO THREE YUTES (IN THE SECONDARY)

With Purifoy and junior Marcus Roberson serving as starting cornerbacks, Florida has been focused all offseason on finding two safeties to replace Matt Elam and Josh Evans. Head coach Will Muschamp previously mentioned that redshirt junior Cody Riggs was well on his way to locking down one of the jobs but has also state don more than one occasion that the other spot is unclaimed at this time.

Durkin said Wednesday that Riggs, senior Jaylen Watkins and junior Jabari Gorman – who is “having the best camp he’s had since he’s been here”- are all doing good things in practice but two youngsters have also stepped up big time.

Marcus Maye has had an unbelievable camp,” he said of the redshirt freshman. “That guy has the talent. He’s as good as anyone around. His thing, like any other young guy, was learning the defense and all that. He’s proven he’s done that. The strides he’s made from the spring to now have been great. He’s doing a great job for us.”

Durkin also offered up praise about freshman Keanu Neal. “He plays fast and physical. He’s a very physical player. He plays fast; he reacts fast. That guy has all the things you want a safety to have, so we’re thrilled to have him,” he said.

“Like all young guys coming in, he has to eliminate the mistakes mentally he’s making on the field as far as where he fits in the defense. A lot of that is expected. It’s just what you want [to happen is seeing those mistakes] getting less and less as you go through practices, which it has for him. He’s got to keep getting himself in a position, by the time we get through camp here, that his mental mistakes are down far enough where he’s ready to play here.”

While Maye and Neal are making strides at safety, freshman Vernon Hargreaves III continues to open eyes at cornerback. Though it would be unlikely that he unseat either Purifoy or Roberson, Hargreaves can give Florida great flexibility in resting Purifoy or playing all three at the same time in five- and six-defensive back packages.

“Vernon is doing a great job. He’ll be playing for us this year. You’ll be seeing him out there,” Durkin said. “I can’t say he’s a pleasant surprise because we’re not surprised. That was our plan on him going in. He has lived up to the expectations of him coming in here. We think he’s a phenomenal player. He takes the game very seriously. He understands the game, and he learns the defense well. He’s a smart player and a very talented player, so he’ll be out there.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On redshirt junior LB Neiron Ball and his progress at a new position: “Neiron Ball is a guy that has played some football for us. We moved him to a different position; he’s playing inside now and doing really well, adapting well to it. He’s been a pleasant surprise for us in that regard.”

» Durkin said that while he is pleased with the play of some of the younger linebackers, the older players – Morrison, Ball, redshirt junior Michael Tayor and senior Darrin Kitchens – all have the first crack at starting for the Gators this season.

» On the competition between the offensive and defensive lines during practice: “They’re making each other better. It’s been great competition. Two guys in particular, Jonotthan Harrison and Dominique Easley, those guys are making each other better. They’re doing a great job. They’re battling every single day. Come game time, they’re going to be that much better because of that practice.”

» On defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and his ceiling as a college coach: “T-Rob is the best. He really is. He’s the best I’ve been around. He has an unbelievable motor on the field. He coaches those guys with high energy. He has great knowledge for the defense and for what we do. He’s an unbelievable recruiter, as you all can see. The guy works relentlessly at it. I’ve been around a lot of good coaches, luckily, in my career, and I don’t know one better than him at what he does. He works really hard at it and is a guy with great energy and great knowledge. Obviously he’s been with Will before and they have a close relationship. There’s no doubt he’s a star. … T-Rob’s going to be a head coach one day, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be. He has all the skills, all the ability to do that. Like I said, he’s got great personal skills. He’s a great recruiter. He’s a high-energy guy. He’s got a great relationship with the players and rapport with players on the team. The sky’s the limit for him.”

4 Comments

  1. Deuce-Five says:

    Lol three yutes good one

  2. Timmy T says:

    DJ sounds like me when I talk about this defense. He sounds JACKED UP!!!!! Trust me folks, the Gators will do big things this year. Maybe, even the biggest thing. Win the whole fargin thing!

  3. Michael Jones says:

    Elam called it on Maye. He was really high on him.

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