Khairi Clark: “Everybody underestimates us”

Pardon the 15th ranked Florida Gators if they are feeling a little disrespected right now. Listed as a 24-point or more underdogs to Alabama for this weekend’s SEC Championship Game matchup, this group of players can find some motivation with that. They’ve been the underdog before and come out on top. They understand they are going to bring everything they have to the table to be victorious Saturday.

Sophomore defensive tackle Khairi Clark has been a steady force as a backup on the interior of the defensive line this year. The defense has don’t its share this season and Clark has played well within a scheme that has kept the Gators in every game and been a force that has helped win eight so far this season. Clark knows the Gators are going to have to leave more out on the field than the Crimson Tide on Saturday if they are going to win.

“Honestly just playing harder, in my opinion,” he said of the key to win the game that will settle the SEC Championship. “They’re a very tough team and well educated, and I feel like come Saturday we’ve got to be more educated than them and we’ve got to actually play harder than them.”

Florida head coach Jim McElwain scoffed at the idea that his team is outclassed in the contest when pressed on it earlier in the week. McElwain said he is looking forward to the contest and anxious to see how the two teams can match wits. Clark agrees.

“I feel like it’s going to be a great matchup, the somewhat outspoken beastly interior lineman said. “I feel like we’re not underneath them because we’re back to where we were last year. But we’re trying to come out with the victory this time. I feel like we can matchup just as well as them, so I think we’re going to get it.”

The Gators are listed as more than three touchdown underdogs in the game. Clark understands why the odds makers share that sentiment at this point, but says talk like that just fuels him and his teammates.

“‘Bama has been known to win so (the odds makers) going to go for the winning team usually, but a lot of people underestimate us,” he said. “But it motivates us in the end to come out and get the victory and work hard.”

Clark thinks there is a predisposition for outsiders to pick against the Gators.

“Because we’re the Florida Gators,” he said. “I feel like everybody doesn’t like us, everybody underestimates us because we’re just us.”

 The confidence of these Gators has been something that has been questioned. Then again, people questioned them after the big Arkansas loss and they came back solid for two weeks. Clark says that the guys just need to have an edge about them and help each other with that edge.

“Honestly I just feel like it’s a mental thing,” he said. You just got to have the mentality that you can dominate anybody. Once you always have that mentality then you’re going to do it, regardless of what it is and who is doing it.”

“We know it’s just us. We motivate each other, and I feel like as a team if we all motivate each other and we’re on the same page and we’re all just talking and you know communicating and doing our job, I feel like we can do whatever we can do.”

With that motivation it all comes back to leaving it all out on the field. Come every play and don’t take one off. Florida hung tight with the Crimson Tide a year ago when they were really overmatched as well, then the train got rolling and it seemed impossible to stop. Clark and his teammates learned from the game.

“The biggest thing I learned is that you know you just got to come out hard, man,” he said. “You’ve got to play hard, because they’re some big dudes you know. They come out hard and you got to come off hard, and if you don’t, they’re going to take over you.”

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