Azzanni Showing Patience with Receiver Corps

Zach Azzanni

Spring practice has just started, but new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni knows the challenge ahead of him. The Florida Gators' leading receiver last season, Riley Cooper, along with starting wideouts David Nelson and Brandon James graduated. Their departures leave just redshirt junior Deonte Thompson as a returner with a lot of game experience during last season.

It hasn't been easy for Azzanni to put the difficult task of putting together a formidable group of receivers for next season to the back of his mind.

"Everybody keeps reminding of that, but I'm excited about it," Azzanni said.

Just like head coach Urban Meyer, Azzanni is expecting Thompson to be the guy next season.

Last year, Thompson gained the reputation of being prone to dropping passes. Through the first four practices in spring, he has shown he hasn't completely put that behind him, but Azzanni is working in practice to fix the problem.

"We are doing some different things to change it up – just easy things to fix, fundamental things on the perimeter, looking balls all the way into the tuck," Azzanni said.

As Thompson works on cutting down the number of dropped passes, he also has to overcome his first three seasons at UF, where he has failed to live up to the expectations he came in with.

Luckily for him, with a new quarterback in John Brantley and the new receivers coach, he and the other unproven receivers will get a new chance to impress.

"It's always good to get a fresh start for some people sometimes, and some of these guys needed a fresh start," Azzanni said. "Every coach has their own style and philosophy, and I think I brought some things they hadn't heard before and maybe a different way of teaching the same things than coach Gonzales did, and that kind of put the shockers on their heart and got them going again."

One player who also hasn't live up to the billing is Carl Moore. He came in as a five-star junior college recruit, but in his first season, he was hardly a factor in the passing game and last year he missed the season with a back injury.

Despite the potential he possesses, Azzanni is not trying to push him to far to be careful with the injury.

"We are being smart with him, getting back in," Azzanni said. "He's another guy who's a football junkie. I got to kick him out of the film room and kick him off the field. I can work with that kind of stuff."

Along with the inexperienced veterans are the incoming freshmen Robert Clark and Solomon Patton. But Azzanni is worried about getting them ready to contend for a starting job just yet. He just wants to make sure they get through spring practice.

"I just want them how to practice right now," Azzanni said. "They have no idea how to practice at this level right now, and that's what my job is."

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