Before the start of his junior season, tight end Chris Clark set out for a reversal of fortune for Avon Old Farms. Just a year prior, the Beavers were able to muster just one win during a trying 2012 campaign. Clark played an instrumental role in mounting a sharp turnaround this past season and helped form a truly prolific offense. While Clark's skill on the field is immediately apparent, his leadership is quite possibly his greatest asset on the field. This is something Michigan has taken note off, as the Wolverines extended Clark a scholarship offer on January 29.
"It went very well," said Clark. "We went to the championship and lost, but it was a big turn around. The season before we only won one game, so it was a big change We were able to have an awesome offense, we led the league in scoring."
Unlike many teams in the NEPSAC A division, Avon Old Farms boasted a dynamic offense capable of breaking games open through the air or on the ground. This luxury wad heavily utilized, as the Beavers showed little remorse on the field after undergoing copious struggles a year prior.
"We had two great tackles, so we ran the football really well which helped our passing," said Clark. "We have an awesome quarterback. We ran the spread and did a lot of read options, so we had a dynamic offense. Our starting running back had over 1,500 yards this year, so we could just pound teams. It was crazy. Bones beat us and their offense was nasty too. We would hang 50 on a lot of teams."
As a pivotal cog in the finely oiled machine that was the Avon Old Farms offense, Clark had a successful seaosn himself, totaling 430 yards and seven touchdowns on 40 receptions.
"I feel like I had a good year receiving and blocking," said Clark. "College coaches wanted me to improve on my blocking so in the offseason before my junior year I bulked up and hit the weight room. I worked really hard on that and it led to results on the field. I got up to 247 pounds, so I had a great blocking year. I know I could have done more, but it was just being a part of a prolific offense."
Clark realizes that his combination of size and agility is rare to find in junior tight ends. At nearly 250 pounds, which is his target weight once he reaches college, Clark can seal the edge on sweep plays or split out wide to test the coverage skills of opposing defenses.
"Im 6'6, 247 lbs. and when you hear that as the measurements for a junior in high school, you think of a kid that would normally be on the line," said Clark. "That's not me at all because I have great athletic ability. I can be put in the slot or out wide and run by corners or beat linebackers. I have a receiver background since I played wide out all my life before I switched to tight end so I was familiar with all of that. I had been running routes and catching the ball, so I was used to getting the ball in space and making guys miss. I run a 4.7 to 4.69 40 so that helps me too. I would like to think I can do all the things needed to be a successful tight end.
Give Clark's highlight tape a look to fully understand why college programs are rushing to offer. In addition to Michigan, Clark sports offers from Ohio State, Georgia, Penn State and Iowa among others.
"Right now Georgia, Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee are some of the schools that stand out," said Clark. "I picked up an Iowa offer yesterday and I do like coach Hernandez and what they do with their tight ends. I like Miami (FL) too, but those are the ones I'm going to visit in the next couple months."
While these schools all present attractive options for Clark, he is looking for a program that can properly utilize his abilities in the passing game as well. His comfort level with the coaching staff will also weigh on his decision, but he is not placing too much stock in that area since it is a fluid business.
"I'm looking for an offense that really incorporates the tight ends in different ways," said Clark. "Offenses that move the tight end based on match-ups. Maybe in the slot against linebackers or safeties/ Schools that will showcase my skills and not make me block all the time. I don't look at the coaching staff because those change all the time, but one that can relate to the players and the team. That's where I'm going to be spending a lot of my time with. I want a good University where a degree means something. When I go on the visits I will look at what majors they offer and figure out what fits me. Sports is a passion for me so Sports Management would be kind of cool."
With Michigan in the conversation for schools to receive a visit from Clark this Spring, he has had the chance to observe Michigan's tight ends and how they were used during the 2013 season. This should be stressed to Clark on his visit as the Wolverines had one of the most dynamic group of tight ends in the Big Ten.
"They would use Funch a lot as a wide receiver because he has that mismatch ability," said Clark. " I also saw what they did with Butt and that was kind of cool because he was a freshman. That's definitely something that interests me and shows that if you're good enough they will play you and that it doesn't matter what age. Butt can do what I was talking about before. Well, they both can in terms of mismatches and moving them around. They don't necessarily play in the three-point stance all the time and can create terrible mismatches for defenses. It's virtually impossible [to defend]."
Michigan also added another tall tight end in their 2014 recruiting class as Ian Bunting officially faxed in his Letter of Intent to play football for the Wolverines on Wednesday. Bunting reached out to Clark shortly after received his Michigan offer and the two spoke about what initially drew Bunting to Ann Arbor.
"I actually talked to [Ian Bunting] a little but on Twitter after I picked up the offer from Michigan," said Clark. "He followed me and hit me up and we just chatted a little bit, He was talking about how he visited a bunch of schools, but when he visited Michigan that it was just a different school and a perfect fit for him. The recruiting process is chaotic, but a lot of guys don't really know how it is. Once you get on campus, you will just kind of know. He said you would know on your visit which school is right for you. It's cool, I will definitely do the same thing for younger kids. We all go through the same thing in recruiting."
Clark was already very high on Michigan before his conversation with Bunting. Once the two had spoken, though, it was clear that Clark had as much interest in the Wolverines as ever. Chris spoke on his level of interest and explained why that is.
"It's definitely high," said Clark. "I love Michigan in terms of just following them since I was a young kid. they are one of those teams that are very historical and big time. The support of the fans at the Big Hose are crazy. There's only a few stadiums in college football where you can say you want to play one day and Ann Arbor is definitely one of them. They are definitely a school I want to visit and if I'm taking the time to visit them then that means something. I'm only visiting a few of the schools that have offered me since I won't have time to visit them all. By visiting a school it definitely means I have a really high interest."
That visit may come sooner than later since Clark would like to wrap up his recruiting process before the start of his senior season. Since Georgia had the first crack at impressing Clark, the Wolverines will have to provide a strong package to reel Clark in.
"I am definitely going to try to check out as game this season," said Clark. "Actually, no, if I check out a game for them, I will be committed to them by that time. I'm only taking one official and that's to the school that I decide to go to. I';m not waiting until my season is going. I definitely want it done before the season. I just got back from Georgia this past weekend and I'm going to Ohio State March 31 and that's set in stone. I'm going to North Carolina and Tennessee in March break. Then I'm going to Michigan at the same time I'm going to Ohio State. I'm definitely going to visit Penn State and visit Boston college for one of their Junior Days. My dad went to Boston College, so I'm gong to check that out too."
As mentioned, Clark has already seen what the Bulldogs have to offer. Fresh off of his visit to Athens, Chris spoke about what makes Georgia a special place and why they are his top school right now.
"It was awesome," said Clark. "It's definitely my favorite right now if I had to pick one, but things can change. It was my first visit, so they set the bar in terms of what I look for from other schools. I got the chance to hang out with the coaches and watch what they do with the tight ends on film. I chilled with coach Richt with a good two hours in his office and we talked to other stuff besides football i his office which was cool. It's nice to talk about stuff besides football sometimes. I got to go to dinner with a coach and his wife in campus. I met a couple players like Keith Marshall and Davis the young tight end they have. It was nice to see what they were like and the facilities were really cool. Overall it was great. It's definitely a college town which is nice. Great experience. It's a really great program and a great University. They are a school that could be in the running the entire way. The SEC is definitely a conference I'm interested in playing in. They were my first SEC offer. I was excited about that when they offered and I still am. "
In order to make Clark a part of Michigan's class in 2015, the Wolverines will have to emphasize a few things to Chris. First, he has seen that early playing time is a possibility and the poster child for that is Jake Butt. As a freshman, Butt was used in a variety of situations, which is another plus for Clark as he feels he can impact the game in numerous areas as well. The Wolverines are likely taking two tight ends in the 2015 class, but that spot may be filled soon depending on which junior prospect visits first.