Michigan received a commitment from 4* TE Chris Clark on Thursday, making him the third young man to commit in a three week span. It should be a morale booster for Michigan fans everywhere- even in the summer of his worst offseason to date, Hoke can consistently nab top prospects away from the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, LSU, etc. Adding to that, the former UNC commit decided to pledge to the Wolverines just days after his "unreal" visit to Michigan.....State.
This might be a bit strong, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that on film, he's the best high school tight end I've ever seen commit to Michigan. While I don't have the same encyclopedic knowledge of Michigan football that someone like Seth at MGoBlog does, it's hard to find a comparison while mentally scrolling through some of the names in my head. He's a better athlete than Jake Butt or Will Paul, much bigger than Funchess, a better blocker than Kevin Koger...I just can't think of a good comparison. The best way to summarize his play is to assert that if he were 50 pounds lighter, schools would be recruiting him as a WR. The good news for us is those 50 pounds make him an asset as a blocker, and can also help him as a physical, goal line type receiver.
As has been mentioned by many bloggers around these parts, Michigan has recently been recruiting three general styles of tight ends; Smaller tight ends functioning mainly as blockers/fullbacks, long tight ends that can be a threat in the passing game, and all around guys who can ideally balance the two responsibilities. While I won't assert that he can be a better receiver than Funchess has become, his upside in the passing game coupled with his relatively advanced (although my view of advanced might be slightly skewed since Jake Butt has been the only functional blocker since Koger) technique as blocker make him an ideal candidate for the third slot. Although I wouldn't imagine all 250 pounds he's packing are muscle, that advanced weight also should help him get on the field early. Drop a little baby fat and he'll have 4/5 years to get up to 260ish.
Between the two (4/5 years), I would really guess it's more likely to be the former than the latter. Although he'll come on campus with SR Keith Heitzman, SR AJ Williams, JR Jake Butt and FR/SO Ian Bunting ahead of him, I think he's too much of an asset to redshirt. I'd rather see him take the Shane Morris route and forego the redshirt for a couple of years of spot service, then come into his own as an upperclassman ready to take the reins. An NFL future following those years of learning is seemingly well within his reach. Between Funchess, Butt, perhaps Bunting and Clark, UM could quickly establish itself as a top producer of NFL TE (or "TE", in Funchess' case) talent.
Our former recruiting writer Anthony Mammel also weighed in with his thoughts:
I watch Clark's tape and see a solid four-star talent who should settle down somewhere in the 40-70 range of the composite rankings. He's a tall, well-built tight end who fits naturally at his position, but I'm most impressed by his hands and ability to see the ball in; combine that with his strength and willingness to block and you've got one of the two best tight ends in his class, if not the best. Lack of long speed and great vertical explosion will keep him from becoming a composite five-star player.
Michigan now has Jake Butt, Ian Bunting and Chris Clark lined up at the tight end position, giving them two all-around, athletic tight ends and another capable of becoming a poor man's Jimmy Graham. Teams lacking athletic linebackers or long defensive backs are really going to struggle to keep all of Michigan's weapons in check. On top of that, linebackers capable of keeping up with Butt and Clark in coverage often won't be able to defeat them in the running game, opening up a plethora of options for Doug Nussmeier, who better start thinking of ways to incorporate the many tight ends at his disposal.