Josh Kendall

Pro prospects: Gators have NFL talent - much of it injured

Florida Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (15)
Florida Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (15) NFL Draft Writer Josh Norris joined us this week to talk about the Florida Gators, a team that has lots of NFL talent. The problem for the Gators is so much of that talent has been lost for the season to injury.

“Florida might be able to make up a better team with the people not on the field than the people in this game,” Norris said.

We talk with Norris about how lucky South Carolina is that Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley won’t be on the field Saturday, the trouble a talented Gators secondary could present for the Gamecocks, and the lack of talent left on the offensive side of the ball for Florida.

The State: Florida is a team that has been decimated like none that I can remember with injuries. They have talent left on the field, but they sure have a lot of talent on the bench too don’t they?

Josh Norris: Absolutely, and one of those is possibly my favorite prospect in the entire class, defensive tackle Dominique Easley. Last year he was lining up as a defensive end or a 5-technique outside the tackle. This year they moved him inside to a 3-technique and even a lot of 1 right next to the center even face up as a zero. He’s only 6-2, 295 but this guy is exactly what the NFL wants. He gets upfield, has the quickest hands I’ve seen, explosive get off, instantly jolts center and guards off balance, is able to push them into the backfield and disrupt the entire backfield and mess everything. He’s not going to be on the field obviously, and that’s really upsetting me.

They have some other pass rushers. Ronald Powell, I am not sure what his status is. He always seems to be injured, but he’s intriguing. He’s a hybrid defensive end, outside linebacker, kind of rushes with is hand up or in the dirt. That can cause a lot of issues on the outside.

And then a young guy who is really coming along is Dante Fowler. He’s only a sophomore but he’s really intriguing.

This secondary for Florida is extremely talented. You have to two juniors in Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson who both are apparently leaving toward the NFL Draft. Purifoy has terrible technique but he gets by on athleticism right now. He crosses over his feet, terrible footwork, but he’s an athlete. Then you have Marcus Roberson, who has missed a lot of time this season. He’s the better of the two, but the best of them may be a third guy, Vernon Hargreaves. He’s a true freshman but a really intriguing prospect. Obviously, I’ve only seen him from afar, and then they have Jaylen Watkins. I wouldn’t be surprised if South Carolina receivers do struggle a bit with these really, really good corners. At one point I think Florida had the best defense in the country, but all these injuries have really taken their toll. Every time I think about Florida, I think about Easley, but Powell and Fowler can create a lot of havoc up front, too.

The State: You mentioned the offense, which wasn’t very good even before the injuries. After losing their starting quarterback and starting tailback to injury, they are really scrapping the bottom of the talent barrel over there aren’t they?

Josh Norris: They are. When (quarterback) Tyler Murphy came in to play, it seemed he rejuvenated this offense, gave them kind of a spark. Everyone said, ‘Well Jeff Driskel is never getting his job back.’ It’s weird, Murphy wants to emulate A.J. McCarron he said as a game-manager, but he doesn’t play like one. He’s somewhat reckless in the pocket in the face of pressure, makes pretty poor decisions, but he hasn’t had a lot of space to throw. This Florida offensive line has really taken a step back. They have one interesting prospect in Jon Halapio. He’s playing left guard. He’s very physical, loves to beat you up. He’s kind of a bully. But the rest of their offensive line has given up so much pressure. Then, quickly, in the slot is (wide receiver) Trey Burton. He’s been in college it seems like 12 years. I guess they are trying to transition him to a tight end/receiver role, and it’s kind of working. Burton has made some plays. There has been some talk about switching him over to defense (in the NFL).