"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
"There's a certain level of confidence and composure he brings to the court," said sophomore forward Aubrey Dawkins, who played the bulk of his minutes as a freshman while LeVert sat on the end of the bench in a sweat suit. "When you know you have a player like that on your team of that caliber, it's just like, we're in his hands and he can do a lot of things for this team. It's a comfort. It's nice."
"I just really wanted to see him in a game and I loved what I saw," Beilein said. "He was active. He's got a motor. He's got some things he's got to work on. He doesn't have the strength to (play) the way he'd like to in the Big Ten yet, but that's what we're going to work on in-between (games) without inhibiting his ability to play the next game."
Hello. This is an annual series profiling Michigan's incoming recruiting class. I do it so that I have a Kiper-like instant recall of biographical facts on all these guys and because since a information-strewn football season has passed between most of these guys' commitments and now. You read 'em because it's the summer.
A note on "YMRMFSPA": this stands for "you may remember me from such players as." It's not supposed to be a projection of how good a player will be, but rather who he'll remind you of in the event he works out. The players I use as comparisons all worked out. I can't compare someone to Avery Horn because I don't know what Avery Horn played like.
A previous highlight reel has been removed from the tubes.
Jeremy Clark lived the life of an itinerant hobo last summer looking for an opportunity to play Big Time college football (or any college football at all), camping at Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Austin Peay(!), and probably others early in the summer. He almost succeeded when his camp tour took him to Ohio State in June. There he was one of three defensive backs being heavily evaluated for an offer. Najee Murray was the immediate winner in that derby; OSU told the other two guys they were "interested." He got his first smattering of offers in the aftermath.
The next weekend Clark hit up Michigan's camp and got his wish: a grayshirt offer that he took immediately, short-circuiting further developments with OSU and anyone else. By the time he grabbed the grayshirt he was turning down you-can-play-now offers from Illinois, Cincinnati and NC State: Clark wants big time.
He'll get it, and he'll get it this fall after Michigan upgraded him to the full-fledged offer in mid-October. This was a talent thing. Clark had been told that if Jarrod Wilson, Michigan's main safety target in the class, picked someone other than Michigan that he'd get the full offer, but by the time Clark was moved to 2012 Wilson had been committed to Michigan for a couple months. This was also before Michigan's late run of disappointment in the 2012 class. It was a move spurred by his play as a senior…
“They sent their coach down to watch practice last week and they were so impressed with him and our team,” Weaver said. “They wanted to get him on campus right away.”
Clark … and the rest of the Maroon secondary shut down Lone Oak QB Cole Ousley last week. … “I thought he was a very good football player,” Lone Oak head coach Orville Haskins said. “Their skill kids are really good.”
…and designed to ward off any suitors offering what Michigan was unwilling to. So he'll be on campus in the fall.
The main questions about Clark are these:
Is he really a 6'4" safety?
Can he run?
How legit was this interest from Ohio State and "other (SEC) suitors"?
Question 1: probably. That picture above is one tall, narrow dude, and there's no jitter in any of the recruiting services' listings save for a 6'2" handed out by ESPN. Everyone else says 6'4". Maybe he's really 6'3". He's still really tall for a defensive back. As far as the safety bit of that question, yeah, very probably. Part of his extreme sleeper status was the usual crazy growth spurt:
“He has the potential to be the best player I’ve coached ,” Weaver said. “He grew four inches from the summer of his sophomore year to his junior year. He grew four inches and runs a 4.4 40 (yard dash).
“He can fly and he likes to hit.”
So he's used to the idea of being a 6'0" safety. The only thing that would drag him away would be the height making it problematic to stay there.
That doesn't seem like it's going to be the case. When he committed Scout replicated this Sam Webb evaluation from camp:
This 6-4, 175-lb. safety was one of the surprises of the day. He flashed good speed and EXCELLENT ball skills. He is a bit of a sleeper on the national scene because he has grown four inches since last fall. Just as impressive was the fact that he soaked up the coaching like a sponge and just seemed to really be relishing the overall experience. After his showing today, the Wolverines are definitely wide awake to his talents. Cincinnati just offered him and don’t be surprised if a number of others, including Michigan, turn up the heat.
Clark is a tall and rangy free safety prospect with a lot of production. Very lean without a lot of bulk, strength and power to his frame right now but we like his upside and room for development as an overall player. Not yet a real explosive defender at this point but mobility and range are good. Covers a lot of ground and is active around the ball. Shows good instincts and awareness skills. Displays very good range and the ability to get over the top of routes in deep coverage. Utilizes his length to his advantage. Tracks the ball well and will go up and high-point utilizing his great height and extension. Does a good job reading the quarterback and underneath route development from a centerfield position. … Lunges as a tackler and lets up some leaky yardage. Tends to drag and question ability to provide stout run support in the box early on in college. Overall, Clark has the height, range and instincts coveted in a safety prospect. Has some weaker areas as well but feel most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Has a high ceiling.
Weaknesses are his man-to-man technique, ability to make tight turns, and tackling/run support issues but ESPN feels "most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Their evaluation of his ceiling: "high."
Trieu's assessment is less down on the tackling but similar otherwise:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Clark is a tall defensive back that has to add some weight to his frame, but loves to come up and hit. Is willing to throw his body around, takes good angles to the football and delivers strong blows to ball carriers. Good straight line speed, but can be a little upright and straight legged in his back pedal. Good range and overall ball skills. - Allen Trieu
His coach echoes the praise($) for his smarts, saying "He has a great speed, he's very physical. He's a really smart kid. And he has a knack for getting to the football." If he doesn't work out at safety I'd guess the ball skills and the size mean a move to WR is more likely than linebacker. Also Michigan has all of the linebackers.
As far as question 2, Clark evidently ran a 4.47 40 at WKU when he hit up their camp the day after OSU's—itinerant hobo, I'm telling you—and a 4.48($) at the Cincinnati camp. If true and not a hilariously under-clocked hand-timing, yes, he can run. If? If. Elsewhere he's listed at 4.7, considerably less enthralling. I'd say he can run enough. Every scouting report has at least mild praise for his straight-line speed. There was even a random rumble($) from Rivals that Clark could play corner after Clark reported that Curt Mallory told him he could play "anywhere in the secondary($)," which would be… interesting.
I probably shouldn't have even brought up #3, as it's inherently unknowable. Erratic rumors that Florida(!), of all teams, was going to come in with an offer if Michigan didn't budge off the grayshirt don't seem credible, since they still could have offered after it. However, Clark's coach did name names once, in a Rivals article($) from Andy Reid:
"That's how he's taking it, and he's fully on board for Michigan. I've had some other schools call me to try and hop in on him now, that offered him to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. But I've talked to his parents, and we're firm. Once he committed, he's done."
Since Clark committed, he's received offers from Cincinnati and N.C. State to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. Weaver has also fielded calls from Florida and South Carolina expressing interest, but Clark has not reciprocated said interest.
You can spin that into an offer was totally coming if Clark showed reciprocal interest if you like. Clark's dad also made an oblique reference($) to "other schools" calling him in the fall by way of explaining Clark's loyalty. Given Clark's profile it's not hard to see teams being wary until seeing senior-year performance. The local paper reports that Clark only played in five games as a junior, and there was the whole growth spurt thing.
If you're making a case that the recruiting services have been excessively cautious in their evaluations of Clark and he's underrated, you've got a good deal of ammo. This is the kind of camp offer that I like to see: an under-the-radar kid with a big ceiling. Sometimes they never work out (Mike Cox), but at least you're not picking up a guy whose top end is decent. Add in Clark's loyalty, dedication, and frame and Michigan may have something here.
Clark had 70 tackles, 15 pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and four defensive touchdowns as a senior. During his junior season, Clark had 75 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions.
"A guy that we had in camp and watched run around and watched his film and thought he was a great fit."
Scored a lot of touchdowns on defense and special teams, including a fumble rumble, an 81-yard punt return, and going 3 for 3 on housing interceptions.
Why Ernest Shazor? Admittedly a huge reach since Shazor was one of the most touted recruits in the country and Clark is… not. But it was either that or pick a 6'0" kid. This seems less inaccurate.
Shazor is the only Michigan safety in recent memory with a frame comparable to Clark. What Clark lacks in recruiting hype and the athleticism that saw Shazor become a five star he will hopefully make up for by not being a complete nutcase who gave up more long touchdowns than anyone during Michigan's long search for halfway competent safety play. Shazor started out of necessity, blew it time and again,—he's still looking for Deandra Cobb—checked out entirely after murdering Dorien Bryant to save that one Purdue game, and went from a projected second rounder to out of football in a month or two.
If anything, this is being harsh to Clark. If he starts for as long as Shazor does he'll be a much better player.
Guru Reliability: Low. Kentucky is not heavily scouted and Clark was a virtual nobody until his commitment, when the sites shrugged and gave him the Default Three Stars We Give Almost All Random Michigan Sleeper Commits.
Variance: Large, large, large. A junior year injury, the growth spurt, the uncertainty about speed and the obscure location.
Ceiling: High. 6'4" safeties who can go are rarities.
General Excitement Level: Give it a B+. Clark's profile does fit that of a plausible sleeper, and his size will be a major asset if he works out. The link above in which Tom talks to Clark's father gives the impression that he comes from a high-quality environment, as does his refusal to consider anyone other than M even when he was on a grayshirt, and he should come close to maxing out that talent. I like Clark's profile more than most of Michigan's three-stars this year; he's not quite Sleeper of the Year but I give him a good shot at being a contributor.
Projection: Obvious redshirt with 4-6 guys likely in front of him this fall including classmate Jarrod Wilson, an early enrollee. After that he looks like a free safety all the way, hopefully one with sufficient instincts and straight-line speed to bring that frame into play. That means another year cooling his heels behind Thomas Gordon before being in serious contention for a job.
I kind of think he gets one, though. Wilson will provide stiff competition but may do so at strong safety after bulking up. Clark's never going to be the guy you want charging down into the box to Kovacs people and brings a skillset to free safety that could be tough to match.
There were doubts about whether he translated to safety in the NFL and some thought he should have come back and play LBer. I don't know whether coming back would have saved him, but he was a bit of a tweener.
He had one fumble recovery, three interceptions and four defensive touchdowns his Senior year. I'm not a genius, Gump, but that means he scored every time he had the ball in his hands on defense! Amazing.
If he really runs below a 4.5 40 and has good instincts, I'm sold. Give him a redshirt year to gain some more muscle and learn the defense, then hopefully he'll be able to start challenging for playing time.
I like Clark at SS. He's big (and will get bigger) and really likes to hit. Think of Kovacs's blitzes, and then picture a 6'4" 220lb guy with 4.5 speed in his place. Western's QB would still be looking for his head.
I know he has good insticts and ball skills, but with his frame and willingness to hit, I like him at SS. Kids who have late growth spurts often have later muscle development as well, meaning he's also behind his peers in bulk. I bet he has no problem being 215-220 after a redshirt. That's a big free safety.
Also, to add to what others have said - he does seem like the perfect WR, at least physically. Tall, physical, fast, good ball skills. He's exactly what Borges is looking for in his receivers. Especially if we get another safety in the 2013 class, I'd be happy with him trying out WR.
Finding comparable competent safeties for YMRMFSPA is always going to be difficult. I watched plenty of Robert Sands (I have a fascination with RR's WVU recruits even though it's never led to a post here) a few years ago. He's a 6'4 or 6'5 free safety who won some Big East hardware as a sophomore. The Big East is not particularly known for tall OL and he'd walk up all the time and peer into the offensive backfield, and yell out alignment shifts. He was a terrible tackler in space but great at covering tight ends and very useful in knocking down Hail Mary's or bouncing jump balls into the air where their cornerback would intercept.
They also would line him up at cornerback in their goal line package because you can't get a fade over the dude's head.
Boise State also had a huge safety but I think he played ss.
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I think a certain level of insanity may actually be an advantage for a safety. I mean, part of the job is intimidating opposing receivers. It's one thing to be big and fast--but you add crazy to the mix, and that's a good recipe for fear. Take Ronnie Lott. He was always a good player--but once that story got out about him having his finger cut off, that's when he really became a legend. You don't f*** with a guy who's willing to lose a finger just so he can stay on the field and kick your ass.
Clark probably still has all his fingers though.
"You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area." -- The Onion