Redshirt Report: Hard-working Marks getting comfortable

Jan 22, 2020 | 0 comments


During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2019 signees who redshirted with our Redshirt Report series. Today, we focus on how this past season went for wide receiver Dionte Marks.

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Deland High School assistant coach RJ Simpson saw something special in receiver Dionte Marks when he was in the eighth and ninth grades.

“The kid has the potential to be all-world,” said Simpson. “I saw that when Dionte was like a freshman, and we was doing I think scrimmaging, and he ran the route by me and just hearing his feet hit the ground every step, I can still hear it now. I think he can be a big-time player with that size, that speed, just getting better knowledge of the game. I think he could be one of the greats, honestly.”


Marks is blessed with a 6-foot-2, 178-pound frame and good speed. During his senior season at Deland, he caught 45 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, what really made him stand out to Simpson at such a young age was his dedication and work ethic. Most kids play football during the week and hang out with their friends and relax on the weekends. They don’t train year-round for one sport. Marks wasn’t like most kids.

“The kid is a workaholic, and this isn’t something he just learned,” Simpson said. “When Dionte was like in the eighth grade, I would pass by the local field where the football teams play at on the offseason. So, on Sundays, he’s out there training, doing cone drills.”

Due in large part to a strong group of four seniors, Marks didn’t see the field much as a freshman at UF in 2019 despite his talent and hard work. He played in two games and redshirted.

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2020 Redshirt Report Series

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Simpson said the adjustment from being the go-to guy in high school to bench-warmer in college was tough on Marks for a few weeks. He thinks that the instant-gratification culture of recruiting and college football puts a lot of pressure on young athletes such as Marks. When success doesn’t come immediately, it’s easy to start second-guessing and doubting.

“They think they’re supposed to go to college and rush for 1,000 [yards] or receive 1,000 and just do outstanding when the reality is like a growing stage,” he said. “It’s just like you’re growing to be a baby again. He has to start his way from the bottom to the top just as he did in high school.”

Eventually, Marks accepted reality and handled his role well. He still talks with Simpson regularly, and Simpson offered him some advice during those challenging first few weeks.

“I said, ‘Man, just have fun. At the end of the day, have fun. Whatever happens happens. Leave it in God’s hands,’” Simpson said. “So, after a few weeks, I think he got comfortable. He played his role on the team. If it was redshirt, it was redshirt.”

The redshirt year did some good for Marks, Simpson said. Watching his older teammates receive the bulk of the playing time showed him how far he needs to go and who he needs to become in order to play more snaps.

“He’s seeing he’s no longer with these babies,” Simpson said. “He’s with basically grown men. I think he got it in his head that he has a benchmark where he needs to be. I think seeing that, it made him a better player and probably study the game better.”

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He also used the year to add muscle in the weight room. While he’s listed at the same weight he was in high school (178 pounds), he looks noticeably more muscular. Simpson said he thinks Marks realized he needed to add strength when he got on campus and looked at the size of the guys he was playing with and against.

Additionally, he used the year to learn the game better and refine his route-running, Simpson said. He looked up to the senior receivers and ran some one-on-ones against them to improve his game. When he returned home to Deland, he asked Simpson to find him a quarterback so he could continue to work on his route-running.

With the four seniors gone, Marks has a shot at significant playing time in 2020. Gator fans can expect to see a versatile playmaker whenever he gets on the field, Simpson said.

“I would describe Dionte like Terrell Owens,” he said. “Big guy, you might underestimate him thinking he can’t run, and then he blow right past you. Then you might have a guy that’ll run you over. You never know. I think he’s like a complete receiver.

“I think if he keep track on the same work ethic and mentality that he has now, I think he’ll reach his full potential.”

 

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