Florida has a pair of talented, young corners in Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. They have had some tough on the job training last year as sophomores and their role within the defense will only increase this coming season due to the fact that both of their starting safeties, Matt Elam and Josh Evans, are now on NFL rosters. Roberson was the better of the two and his role in particular will be key for the Gators to succeed. He showed flashes of being an effective corner but was inconsistent and was victimized at times. Roberson had 18 solo tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, a force fumble, 12 pass deflections and a pair of interceptions during his sophomore campaign in Gainesville.
Entering his junior year, Roberson appears to be a player who could make a big jump and come into his own. The light seemed to be flickering for him at times last year, so with another offseason to train and practice, he could become far more confident and effective in coverage, have the light go on and be a much bigger threat in the Gators defense. Roberson would be selected as a day three pick if he were in the draft right now, but if he can get stronger and improve as a tackler while getting more consistent and confident in coverage, he could make a huge jump in his stock and if the flashes he showed last year were an indication of things to come, he should be a guy fighting for a spot in the top 100 if he decides to leave as a junior with the possibility of going even higher in another year.
Vitals & Build
Roberson is listed at 6’ 178lbs and is rail thin at this point. He plays with more strength than his size would suggest so as he is able to continue putting on muscle, Roberson can put it to good use. A terrific foot athlete, Roberson has speed and quickness in short areas with fluid body control. He breaks on the ball pretty well. Roberson has significant potential with his length and the amount of room on his frame to continue adding muscle.
Roberson still has a lot of work to do as a tackler but there is some effort there that suggests he is trying to do a decent job in this area. He needs to gain strength but he will try to wrap up and at least slow the player down so his teammates can come and finish the job. Roberson will take down receivers and has shown to be able to get the quarterback down on the blitz but he is not effective against running backs. His willingness to at least do his best to slow the guy down for his teammates is notable from an effort standpoint but he needs to get better and be able to make more tackles, especially when it comes to moving to the NFL.
The tackling is something that needs improvement but Roberson does a decent job of taking on blockers. He uses quickness to get guys off balance and then opts to try to use his strength and does a good job with his hands. This is still a work in progress but he does play the strong side corner for Florida and with more experience and especially more strength, the fundamentals are there to suggest he could take a big step forward sooner than later.
Roberson shows signs of developing into a good corner in man coverage but he is inconsistent. He will make good plays and stay in the receiver’s hip pocket on one play and then lose him on the next. Roberson takes advantage of his length and wants to get the receiver out to the sideline and pin him against it. Occasionally, he will leave the door open for a receiver to cut back inside which puts him at a disadvantage and forces him to try to trail him, which gives the receiver a lot of space to operate and catch the ball.
While he needs to continue working on his timing and tracking the football going down the field, Roberson does a good job of using his arm to get inside and break up passes. He needs to develop a better feel for mirroring routes and a feel for where they are going as he will occasionally get lost in coverage. Roberson breaks on the ball well and will get in and make plays on the football which should only increase as he gets more consistent. He will occasionally bite on double moves and gets beat deep too often. The aggressiveness is good and that is better than being too cautious but he just needs to continue developing his sense of when he can do it and when he needs to stay home and protect against the deep ball.
While Florida tends to prefer to run man coverage on the outside, they will mix in some zone. Roberson has a good sense of space and is able to track multiple guys in an area. He has shown some good instincts on when he needs to bail and get deeper to try to take away that play even when it means creating an opening underneath. Roberson seemed to be put in positions where he was forced to cover up mistakes of teammates. Certainly, that is not what the Gators want to see in their defense but Roberson’s experience in this area could pay dividends going forward.
He has decent range and can break on the ball with good acceleration. Unlike a lot of corners, Roberson is well equipped to play man but is equally comfortable in zone.
Roberson has decent ball skills but they are heading in the right direction. He needs to work on timing his jumps and when he goes up for the football, but he is comfortable playing in close quarters and does make plays on the football. He is pretty good at deflecting passes when he has the opportunity but needs to continue to evolve with his skills to create more opportunities to get interceptions.
Blitzing off the Edge
Roberson does have experience blitzing off the edge and as he plays the strong side, he is coming from the blind side. He has the acceleration and speed to make plays in the backfield but as Florida’s best cover corner, he was used sparingly in this role. That, combined with his athleticism made it difficult to anticipate when he was coming which made it more effective. He needs to improve his tackling and get stronger but he has been able to get the quarterback on the ground from there.
Roberson has some experience as a punt returner and with his athleticism, he could be utilized there in the NFL with his speed and athleticism. He only returned two punts this past season but they added up to 81 yards. Roberson has the athleticism and body type to be a good gunner as well.
At this point, Roberson is still a malleable corner that could play in multiple schemes. He has ability to play in a man based scheme but has definitely given the impression that he could be a talented zone corner instead. He has not really distinguished himself in either setup but he has the potential to make a big step forward and it could happen this season. Right now, he would be picked on his athleticism and potential in addition to the fact a team could mold him into what they wanted him to be in their system.
|Sat, Aug. 31||vs. Toledo|
|Sat, Sept. 7||at Miami|
|Sat, Sept. 21||vs. Tennessee|
|Sat, Sept. 28||at Kentucky|
|Sat, Oct. 5||vs. Arkansas|
|Sat, Oct. 12||at LSU|
|Sat, Oct. 19||at Missouri|
|Sat, Nov. 2||vs. Georgia|
|Sat, Nov. 9||at Vanderbilt|
|Sat, Nov. 16||at South Carolina|
|Sat, Nov. 23||vs. Georgia Southern|
|Sat, Nov. 30||vs. Florida State|
The game against Miami in Coral Gables is particularly interesting with Roberson because he has given up the deep ball at times and Stephen Morris loves to go down the field and will go there and make Roberson prove he can win. Missouri’s Dorial-Beckham Green is a huge player looking to breakout this year and he will force Roberson to prove his strength. The biggest matchup for the year for this Florida secondary comes against Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews. Matthews is a tremendous athletic prospect but his route running ability let him have a field day against the Gators last year and was able to get open at will. This provides a big opportunity for Roberson to hold his own and prove he can compete against the best talent in the country at the receiver position.
Right now, Roberson might look similar to Chris Houston from Arkansas. Houston took a few years to figure out the position in the NFL but has developed into a worthwhile player and someone that seems to have found himself a home with the Lions. Houston, like Roberson, was an impressive physical talent coming out but was still working on the craft for the position. He has become an effective player and while Roberson could experience that before he leaves Gainesville, it might be like Houston where he has to grind it out in the NFL.
On athleticism and potential alone, Roberson is a day three pick, but he has a ton of room for growth as a player and the potential to improve his stock over the next season or two substantially. He can continue adding strength and getting more consistent in coverage that could work in a few different schemes. The Gators defense lost a lot of talent this past year to the NFL Draft, so if Roberson can be a player who steps up and becomes a playmaker, Florida’s defense will be better for it and Roberson’s stock will reflect it when he decides to go into the draft.