Florida coach Will Muschamp says he likes to experiment with his football team during spring practice. Try some new plays and formations on offense, maybe move some players around on defense, work on a new blitz or two.

But that wasn't why he decided to move junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy to wide receiver for the first seven practices in preparation for a role on offense next season. That was done out of near desperation.

Florida's receivers have underachieved for so long that Muschamp -- a former defensive back, one of the country's top defensive minds, and the Gators' safeties coach -- is giving up one of his best defensive backs so UF's passing game has a chance to rank ahead of more than just option teams in 2013.

"We need to get better at receiver," Muschamp said.

The Gators signed four receivers in February -- including early enrollee Demarcus Robinson -- but the best option for immediate help is the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Purifoy. He has the size, speed, athleticism and ball skills that Muschamp wants in a receiver and he has already shown he is a playmaker on defense and special teams in his first two seasons. He forced three fumbles, blocked two kicks (including one in the final seconds to beat Louisiana-Lafayette), and broke up five passes last season.
Purifoy played a few snaps at receiver last season, catching one pass for 5 yards and carrying the ball once for 8 yards. He initially wasn't thrilled about spending half of spring practice on offense or the fact that he might have to play significant snaps there next season.

"At first, I didn't want to play [receiver]," said Purifoy, who played some receiver as a senior at Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest. "I really didn't want to play it. I'm kind of getting back into the groove of it now and it's kind of fun."

But Purifoy's time at receiver has not been easy this spring. He's a bit overwhelmed by the offensive playbook and sometimes has trouble remembering where to line up and when to go in motion. He said he's got the routes figured out but still isn't completely comfortable.

He did, however, stand out during UF's two open practices last week, making several deep catches and carrying the ball on end arounds and jet sweeps. But his frustration was noticeable, too. Muschamp spent several minutes walking with his arm around Purifoy's shoulders on Friday after Purifoy struggled in a team drill.

"He's still in a learning process," Muschamp said. "He got a little frustrated. I said, 'Listen, remember your first day at corner? I mean, it just doesn't happen overnight. That's why we're doing this, so you can learn the concepts of the offense when you step in.'

"It's very difficult for a guy that's had tremendous success at a position when you're trying to learn another position."

Purifoy is working hard at it, though, and his teammates have noticed. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has tried to be as helpful as possible. When Purifoy does get things figured out, that gives Driskel another option in the passing game.

"He's an athletic freak and he's a guy we want to get the ball and he's done a good job so far," Driskel said. "He's really embraced the challenged and done a good job.