GAINESVILLE - Florida ramped up the intensity of its spring practice on Saturday, working in full pads for the first time this year.
The increase in physical play was clear from the start. UF opened practice with its “Gator Pride” drill, during which three offensive linemen and a running back clash with three defensive linemen. After two practices in shorts, Saturday’s outing mixed the crack of pads with the usual whistles and shouts.
• UF opened the 11-on-11 portion of practice with six consecutive plays out of its Wildcat package. Trey Burton lined up at quarterback, with Loucheiz Purifoy, Andre Debose and Demarcus Robinson running sweep action.
Florida also flashed the option from its base package, running it with quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones.
-For the second consecutive day, Florida’s punt returners struggled to hold onto the ball.
Demarcus Robinson, Andre Debose and Loucheiz Purifoy joined Marcus Roberson and Trey Burton —the two players listed atop the spring depth chart at the position — during Saturday’s drills.
Burton, Roberson and Purifoy all dropped punts on Saturday. Roberson and Debose appeared to struggle with the sun during the early afternoon practice. Roberson took a punt off the top of his helmet, and Debose was hit in the facemask by a punt on the next attempt.
Debose led the team with 10 punt returns for 93 yards last season. When Debose missed UF’s four November games due to injury, Roberson and De’Ante Saunders stepped into the role. Roberson returned two punts for 81 yards, including a critical 50-yard return in Florida’s 37-26 win against Florida State.
• Purifoy continues to be a work in progress at wide receiver. During one-on-one drills against defensive backs, Purifoy was jammed at the line by Jaylen Watkins but broke free to catch a pass on a curl route.
Later in the drill, Purifoy ran a fly, but the quarterback threw a curl that Watkins nearly intercepted. The miscommunication prompted defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson to shout, “Come home, Lou!”
Purifoy responded just a few minutes later, making a catch on an out route.
• Wideout Soloman Patton is wearing an orange non-contact jersey as he continues to recover from a broken arm, but he doesn’t appear to be holding back. After diving to make a catch during individual drills, Patton battled press coverage in one-on-one work against defensive backs.
• Cornerback Marcus Roberson has bulked up to 195 pounds after playing last year at 178, and he appears to be carrying the new weight well.
Roberson blanketed Quinton Dunbar on a curl route, broke up a slant to Debose and successfully defended a fade pass to Burton on Saturday. He made just one noticeable mistake — he was beaten badly by Dunbar on an out-breaking route during a one-on-one drill.