Azzanni Trusting Clark

Robert Clark

The Florida coaches already trusted Robert Clark enough to throw him on the field during his first two games. With Chris Rainey being out Saturday, he will be an important part of the offense. Clark's instincts on the field against USF showed wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni that the freshman is ready to make a difference on the road.

Robert Clark's first career catch went for 15 yards, leaving defenders lying on the ground after he shook them off with a few moves. However, it's what he did before the play that impressed the staff.

Out of the huddle, Clark was supposed to line up on the left side of the offensive line in the slot. Quarterback John Brantley was supposed to send him in motion to the slot on the other side.

Out of the huddle, Clark realized there wasn't enough time on the play clock to make that happen.

He made a quick decision to forget about going in motion and lined up in the slot on the right side of the offensive line, allowing the Gators to have enough time to get the play off.

"He was right there for Brantley, just like he was supposed to be in the first place," Azzanni said. "It was just a different way of doing it. It was a heads up play by a young kid."

This weekend, Clark and Omarius Hines will split time in the slot vacated by Rainey. The coaches like their options, as Hines is a big receiver that can go over the middle. Clark offers speed and moves after the catch.

Clark showed his dedication to the coaches soon after getting to campus in the spring. He spent extra time in the film room trying to improve.

"He has a lot of awareness," Azzanni said. "He loves football. He doesn't say a word, but he's the first guy here and the last guy to leave. He does stuff right, and that's why he's playing on all our special teams, too."

Hines will be the starter in the slot this weekend, but Azzanni doesn't see anything different. Hines played multiple snaps at the slot in the first two games.

"That's what he's just playing, just in a different personnel group for us," Azzanni said. "He's used to being in the slot. He's actually a little more versatile because we can bring him in and do some things."

There wasn't much of a temptation to switch Andre Debose back to slot receiver. The Florida coaches wanted to leave him outside to continue providing depth. He also gives the offense a threat when Deonte Thompson is forced out of the game.

The Gators tried to get Debose involved against USF when he ran a deep route. Debose ran a post route, but Brantley threw the ball to the spot where a receiver running a go route would have been.

"He should've kept it a little thinner than he did," Azzanni said. "It's good for Andre to get in the game and make those mistakes now before we head into conference. You've got to get out there and get your feet wet for that problem to happen."

Azzanni sees the depth thinner at the outside receiver positions than the slot. That is why they are keeping Debose outside.

"We want to get those guys on the field," Azzanni said. "As hot as it's been, we're trying to play as many guys as we can. That's why Andre got extended playing time this week. We just need fresh legs out there. We're trying to rotate them all through. Andre can easily play inside. Right now, we're trying to keep him outside."

Stephen Alli saw his first action against USF. Even though he didn't catch any passes, his position coach loved his production. His 6-5, 220-pound frame will help in catching balls down the field as the season progresses, but right now his perimeter blocking encourages the Florida coaches.

"Alli had a great game Saturday," Azzanni said. "He did a heck of a job on the perimeter blocking. Quinton Dunbar is coming along each day. He's got Carl Moore and Deonte in front of him."

Alli was one of the best blockers at receiver in his first career game at Florida. That isn't ideal with upperclassmen also blocking on the edges. The blocking was improved and helped spring long runs from the running backs, but it's still not where the coaches want it.

"I think we've got a long way to go, but we're improved," Azzanni said. "We're just losing leverage. The want to and the will is there. It's just a lot of young guys and understanding leverage on different plays. We need to work on finishing out there."
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