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From marquee to mismatched?

11/14/2013


I will be heading to Columbia, S.C., this Saturday to get a look at Florida against South Carolina. This will be my first live look at the Gators this season and my fourth time seeing the Gamecocks.

Entering the season, this mid-November game looked to have heavy implications for both teams regarding the SEC East race. However, only the Gamecocks still have a chance at punching their ticket to Atlanta. South Carolina holds a 5-2 conference record and remains a half-game behind Missouri. South Carolina holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Tigers, who still have a trip to Ole Miss and a home matchup with Texas A&M remaining on their conference schedule.

As for Florida, a series of injuries has derailed its season. The Gators limp into Saturday’s contest losers of four consecutive games, and at 4-5 are fighting to extend their streak of 22 straight seasons with a bowl game. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury after the third week, was one of the most devastating losses. Easley was the anchor of the defense and it would be hard to argue that there was another 2014 draft prospect who was off to a faster start to the season.

While Easley won’t be suited up, there will be plenty of NFL-level talent to check out on Saturday. Below is a list and a review of the draft status of some of the bigger prospects I will keep an eye on.

As always, draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

FLORIDA

CB Loucheiz Purifoy (6 feet, 185 pounds, Scouts Inc. grade: 90) *

Purifoy has adequate size and length along with smooth overall movement skills. He also brings strong added value on special teams, which he displayed against Miami, where he blocked a punt and was heavily involved in the coverage units. However, Purifoy has dealt with technique and eye-discipline issues this season. On tape, he appears to have lost leverage and been caught out of position too much.

Purifoy remains in the fringe first- to second-round range, but his inconsistent tape is something to monitor moving forward.

CB Marcus Roberson (5-11½, 195, Scouts Inc. grade: 88) *

Roberson is dealing with a knee injury and is listed as questionable for Saturday night.

On tape, he is outplaying Purifoy this season. Roberson isn’t as fluid as Purifoy; however, he is more physical, is playing with much better technique and has shown more awareness with his eyes in coverage. Roberson is at his best when locked in press coverage and shows above-average range for the position. Similar to Purifoy, he also contributes on special teams as a punt returner and holds a solid second-round grade at this point.

CB Jaylen Watkins (6-0, 188, Scouts Inc. grade: 30)

Watkins is the brother of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and has shown some versatility in also lining up at the safety position this year. He has adequate movement skills and flashes a good short-area burst. Watkins also shows above-average ball skills and is an aggressive player on tape. He has not received a full evaluation at this point but looks to have the makings of a solid Day 3 grade.

OC Jonotthan Harrison (6-3, 310, Scouts Inc. grade: 52)

Harrison has good size and adequate athleticism and flexibility for the position. He also shows awareness on tape and does a nice job of locating targets both in the run game and in pass protection. However, he needs to get strong in the core, lacks a powerful punch and needs to show more balance-sustaining blocks.

Harrison can also play with more of an edge and looks to be in the mid-to-late-round mix.

Other Florida prospects to keep an eye on:

OLB Ronald Powell*

TE Trey Burton

OG Jon Halapio

DE Damien Jacobs