Khairi Clark has played in some big time moments over the last couple of seasons for the Gators. Now he will be asked to start for Florida at defensive tackle. More than that, he will have to take the younger guys around him under his wing to make sure they are playing at a level consistent with what Florida has grown used to on that side of the ball.
This spring was a big stepping stone toward that end.
"I came very far this spring, because this spring I felt like I had to take on that leadership role after all the guys we lost last year,” Clark told the media gathered around him after the Orange and Blue Debut Friday night. “I was really depended on, me and Taven Bryan, to step up and be the big leaders."
“I think the younger guys can learn a lot from our performances on the field to help them mentally want to go harder and just for them to continue working their techniques in the game."
The recent history at the defensive tackle position and the players that manned the two spots in the middle of the defensive line for Florida have played a part in molding Clark into the player that he is expected to be in 2017.
"From them, we basically learned that you always had to come out and play your hardest,” Clark said. “If you want to get your name out there, you just have to go out there and be yourself. You can't think about nothing. Just play your game and be yourself."
Now it is turn along with fellow junior Taven Bryan to take the torch up front.
"I feel like me and Taven have been ready to take on these roles because we've been here for a couple years now and we've had to watch guys in front of us take on the job of being the big leaders,” Clark said. “It put weight on our shoulders. I feel like this year, we were ready to take it on."
Getting ready for the big opener…
The Gators will kick off next season a little differently. Usually opening at home against some directional school, the Gators are taking the show on the road to an impartial venue in Dallas, Texas to take on the Michigan Wolverines.
With the big game on the docket, Clark says that the squad will be pumped this offseason to get after it just a little bit more.
"Oh yeah,” he said about having a little extra motivation this offseason. “Most definitely because usually at the beginning of the season, you'll have a lighter team that you play a lower conference team and whatnot. But playing Michigan… it's a big game that we're going to have. We have to be ready."
The last time the two schools met was not a very memorable experience for the Gators. A 41-7 loss and the game may not have really been that close. That game left a bad taste in the mouth of all who were involved, including Clark.
"We dread that loss because we had no idea that we were going to go out and get beat that bad,” Clark said. “We never feel that way about any game. It's an embarrassment. We have to go out and show them who the Florida Gators are. We have to show them that we can beat them."