The reasons why DT target C.J. Clark has become a priority for UGA
Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet for Tuesday calls for a scouting assessment of 4-star DT target C.J. Clark from North Carolina. He’s set to make his decision on June 18.
When 5-star UGA pledge Nolan Smith II was at G-Day on April 21, he asked Kirby Smart to give him five recruits at the event that the staff needed him to spend all day working on.
Smith, he of two very broad shoulders, can carry a lot of weight. But Smart told him something that probably foreshadows the thinking behind how the 2019 recruiting class will be built in Athens.
Quality. Not quantity.
That’s why Smith set out to prioritize two recruits on G-Day. Well, that was his official grocery list. Smith is still known for busting out a “this is the spot” at all times when he’s around peer recruits.
Those names were C.J. Clark and Derick “Rambo” Hunter.
Smith has been in their ears since. Clark has made it back to UGA at least two times since G-Day. He’s set to make his decision on June 18, and the Bulldogs should be seen as one of his top options.
He has said he will make his commitment that day to honor his mother on her birthday. Clark named the Bulldogs as his leader last month and the decision should come down to Georgia, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
Clark ranks as the nation’s No. 17 defensive tackle prospect on the 247Sports composite for 2019. He’s seen as the nation’s No. 272 overall recruit and the No. 10 player in North Carolina for this cycle.
The North Stanly High School (New London, N.C.) prospect told 247Sports’ Don Callahan that North Carolina trails a top tier that includes Georgia and N.C. State. The Bulldogs have been his stated leader for a couple of months.
Georgia also has picked up the last seven 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Clark and has been named by 88 percent of the recruiting analysts who offered up a prediction as the team to beat.
Callahan also reported that Clark will be spending a lot of time on the campus at North Carolina over the weekend. Clark also told 247Sports that Georgia and North Carolina State have not made any attempts to get him back for another quick visit prior to his pending decision.
Why C.J. Clark has been prioritized by UGA
Clark seemed to enjoy himself at the UGA scavenger hunt event earlier this spring. He brought a lot of family members with him to that event.
That’s necessary recruiting for the Bulldogs. Georgia has prioritized its defensive line recruiting for 2019. That was even before 2018 signee Tramel Walthour could not gain admittance and had to enroll in junior college for the upcoming season.
What does Clark do on the high school level that has turned heads? Scott Crisco, the coach at North Stanly, said that his team likes to play Clark at the 3 technique on the defensive line.
“Most of the time what we saw last year was one of two things,” he said. “They would of course double team him or run away from him. So we move him around a lot because he is so versatile. He even plays a little defensive end and outside linebacker for us because he is so versatile and can do so many things.”
Clark has lined up on the edge on Friday nights in pass situations. He played last fall at about 305 to 310 pounds but has shed some weight through strength and conditioning and is right at 295.
“He actually can cover the guys we see pretty well,” Crisco said. “But most of the time he is in that 3 technique for us. But even for our 7-on-7 camps, we will take him with us because he is just such a good cover guy for his size. You won’t believe it until you see it.”
Perhaps one of the biggest scouting nuggets on Clark is that he led the team in tackles on kickoff returns as a sophomore.
That’s right. The now 6-foot-4 defensive tackle led the kickoff coverage team in tackles.
He also fumbled a kickoff return last season. The fact that Crisco and his staff felt confident enough to even have him on the field in a pooch-kick situation says a lot about his feet and his overall athletic ability.
What C.J. Clark still has to work on
Still, all is not sunshine and roses when it comes to where Clark stands as a prospect.
Clark is athletic for his size, and that’s the building block to work on. When he was a freshman, he started for North Stanly at linebacker. He was just too good to not play, even with a 6-foot-1 frame that already had packed on 250 pounds at that spot.
That said, the four-year-starter is far from a finished product. When DawgNation saw him compete in 1-on-1 at Nike’s The Opening regional in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this year, he was not dominating.
He did not win the majority of his reps there. That falls in step with something Crisco knows Clark can get better at.
“With his size, he goes all out and that leads to him having to take some plays off,” Crisco said. “That shows on film every once in a while. From talking to college coaches, that a pretty common thing and that’s a reason why most colleges will run four to five defensive linemen in and out in big games because you can’t expect a 300-pound defensive lineman to go 100 percent the whole drive down the field. That’s what I think he will have to get better at. He did work a lot harder last fall on his conditioning and he does see the benefits of that.”
Clark has an older cousin, B.J. Hill, who also played on the defensive line at N.C. State. He was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He also has another cousin, Antonio Williams, who transferred to North Carolina.
Williams was rated as the nation’s No. 7 running back prospect when he signed with Ohio State in 2015. That’s quite an impressive bloodline. All played for Crisco at North Stanly.
How does Clark compare to those two with his overall upside as a prospect?
“He’s right at the top,” Crisco said. “Only because he has gotten a little bit better by working on his weaknesses from the previous year. … I think C.J.’s biggest strength is his ability to focus on what his weaknesses were from the previous year and previous season and attacking each of those to make him become an even better player.”
What the Nadab Joseph news means for UGA
DawgNation reported Monday that 4-star Nadab Joseph wasn’t able to gain admittance into UGA out of high school. That’s a tough break for his academic future. But he’s going to a program at Independence led by a coach with a track record for turning stories like this one around.
Jason Brown has made a career out of getting players eligible and building them up before they head to their next stop at a four-year college. Brown said that he once had six of his former JUCO players competing in the same Super Bowl.
The Independence staff feels Joseph can get in and out of their program in 18 months. It essentially now makes him a Class of 2020 recruit. When the time comes for his recruiting to heat back up, Georgia will be a player.
I also feel Alabama will, too. My feeling is that if Joseph didn’t have any academic hardships, he would be getting ready for his freshman season in Tuscaloosa right now.
But that’s a storyline for 2020. There are two or three other ripples that this news creates.
- Joseph is a gifted player. He could have competed for a spot in the two-deep in the UGA secondary if he had been able to pull off a 2nd-and-26 of his own with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
- This means a greater opportunity for Latravious Brini, William Poole III and Eric Stokes from the Class of 2017. Ameer Speed and Mark Webb Jr. already were in line to earn some major time in the rotation for what they’ve done so far.
- It also magnifies the importance of Tyson Campbell, Otis Reese and Chris Smith II among the 2018 signees. Early enrollee Divaad Wilson was working his way toward playing time before sustaining a torn right ACL in spring drills.
- Joseph’s absence in the class now means the Bulldogs can look to sign an extra defensive back in 2019. Jalen Perry is already committed, but it places a greater importance on players such as Cortez Andrews, Lewis Cine, DJ Daniel, Kaiir Elam, Jammie Robinson, Shilo Sanders and Tyrique Stevenson in the class.
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