Friday, June 20, 2014

Chris Clark, Wolverine

Chris Clark (image via MGoBlog)
Avon (CT) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark committed to Michigan on Thursday. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and numerous others.

Clark is a 6'6", 247 lb. prospect. He claims a 4.72 forty and a 30" vertical. As a junior in 2013, he caught 39 balls for 417 yards and 6 touchdowns.

ESPN: 4-star, 83 grade, #3 tight end, #108 overall, #2 in-state
Rivals: 4-star, #4 tight end, #146 overall, #2 in-state
Scout: 5-star, #1 tight end, #26 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 93 grade, #6 tight end, #191 overall, #2 in-state
247 Composite: 4-star, #2 tight end, #101 overall, #2 in-state

Clark was offered by Michigan this winter and set up visit plans, but he abruptly committed to North Carolina in mid-March. Almost immediately afterward, however, he stated that he still wanted to check out his other options. He visited Ann Arbor a month later and proclaimed that the Wolverines were his leader. He set a final announcement date for July 10, where he would have a national stage at Nike's The Opening. Instead, he jumped at the chance to commit to the Wolverines during an unofficial visit back to campus.

Clark is a big body with a nice frame who could probably play at whatever weight the coaching staff wants him. If they want him as a sleek downfield threat, he can do that; if they want him to bulk up and be a combo tight end, he could probably get up to 270 lbs. and do that, too. Right now Clark has good speed for the position, and he does a nice job of lowering his center of gravity to cut upfield after he catches the ball on crossing routes. He also shows an ability to high-point the football, and he makes a snazzy one-handed grab in his highlights. He does not fight the football and catches it well with his hands away from his body. Clark also shows a willingness to block and does a good job at times of moving his feet to drive block, as well as moving laterally to stay on his blocks.

One thing to keep in mind when watching Clark's highlights is that he does not play good competition in Connecticut. He looks like a man among boys. While he shows a nice stiff-arm at one point, there are other times where he runs too high and goes down easier than he should. Along the same lines, he gets away with some so-so blocking technique because he's bigger and more powerful than almost anyone else on the field. He needs to speed up his first step off the line when blocking, and he needs to be more consistent about moving his feet, both forward and side-to-side. It seems that he sometimes expects defenders to fall like bowling pins when he hits them, and it takes him a split second to realize they won't always do that.

Overall, Clark is a very nice pickup for the Wolverines. I am surprised at how high Scout ranks him, because I do not see Clark as a devastatingly effective tight end at the next level. However, I can see some Jason Witten-like skills, so if he realizes his potential, the ceiling is very high. Not many players reach their maximum potential, though. When Clark arrives on campus, he will be competing with senior A.J. Williams, redshirt senior Keith Heitzman, junior Jake Butt, and redshirt sophomore Khalid Hill, and sophomore/redshirt freshman Ian Bunting. Even with a college-ready frame, it may be a slight uphill battle for immediate playing time just because of the experience ahead of him. By his second year, though, Clark should be squarely in the mix for significant playing time.

Clark is the eighth commitment for Michigan in the 2015 class and the first tight end. The class is currently scheduled to be in the low teens, but some attrition will likely make that number grow into the mid or high teens. Michigan will also likely try to add another tight end, with Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. being the prime target there. The only other Michigan player from Old Farms was running back Michael Cox from the 2008 class.

TTB Rating: 85 (ratings explanation)


  1. He's way mobile as a 6'6" 240 lbs. high school junior. I watched Wheatley again immediately after Clark. Clark makes Wheatley look like a plodder, although Wheatley somehow appears to get smoother as his vid progresses.

    I'm in love with the idea of big, physical, bookend tight ends out there sealing off pursuing linebackers. I keep thinking Nussmeier could stand them both up and pretend he's Hayden Fry.

    1. Agreed. Clark looks like a nice prospect, definitely ahead of Wheatley at this point. Very pleased with TE recruiting in the '13-'15 classes. The common denominator among them has been good receiving skills. I like this approach. These guys will be putting a lot of pressure on secondaries in the future, and that is a threat that UM has not had in a while (for the most part). They all have the potential and frames to be good blockers as well. Some bloggers are predicting that Bunting will be a receiving specialist based in his HS film split out wide. But I think he has the mentality to become a decent blocker as well.

  2. I saw you rated Butt an 82. Do you think the difference between Butt and Clark is Clark's size or does Clark have slightly better athleticism? Or is it something else that distinguishes them? I'm pretty excited about Butt-too bad about the ACL injury-so that makes me even more excited about Clark. Outside the three decommitments, Hoke and crew are putting together a nice class after two down(ish) seasons.

    1. Butt looked better as a freshman than I expected him to look, so I may have underrated him a little bit. Clark looks a little bit quicker than Butt, so that's one advantage he has.

    2. Thanks Magnus!

  3. "He also shows an ability to high-point the football"

    That phrase is new to me ... what does "high-point the football" mean in context to Clark?

    1. It means to go up and get the ball in the air at a "high-point", catching it above your head with two hands.

      The best example of this is Calvin Johnson. He's so big, tall and athletic that Stafford can throw it up there to him and Calvin can "high-point the football" and catch it, even if he has a DB (or two) literally right next to him.

      With Clark, he's very tall and athletic, so assuming he can build strength and timing, he would be very good at this. It's a next level skill b/c it means even if you are covered, you're not covered.

    2. Right. Essentially, it means that if he were a basketball player, he would probably be a good rebounder. You don't want for the ball to come down to chest level or bounce off the floor. You take the appropriate angle and you leap at the right time to give yourself an advantage over the defender.

    3. Got it ... thanks! I can see the value of that, naturally.

      In a world of 5'11" CBs being a 6'6" TE that has the ability to time and get the ball way up there has obvious advantages. Being 6'6" and 240lb (at this point) means he can match up against LBs as well ... in fact, he'll likely be a nightmare matchup for LBs if the QB can spot the ball properly.

      What's the strategy for defensive coaches? If my CBs can't go that high, is my mission then to disrupt the route and timing best I can?

    4. Most rebounds are a matter of positioning (i.e., boxing out) moreso than out-jumping people. Timing is important in both though.

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  5. Like you, I question the competition in CT. HOWEVER, you don't often see a TIGHT END pancake someone! I enjoyed that part thoroughly!