Chris Clark on quarterback and future teammate Alex Malzone: 'We're the same type of kid. We're both really competitive and he is just a perfect teammate.' (Scout.com / Brian Dohn)
That was the question Avon (Conn.) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark asked himself as his visit to Michigan concluded Thursday afternoon. The five-star prospect had been blown away during his prior trip to Ann Arbor back in April, and this second trip convinced him fully that Ann Arbor should be his college home. All that was left to figure out was the timing of his announcement. The pomp and circumstance of choosing a school at Nike’s marquee summer camp, “The Opening,” in Beaverton, Ore., early next month was an experience he’d long anticipated. In the end, though, the spectacle just didn’t seem that important.
“I discussed it with my parents beforehand, walking around,” Clark said. “It was funny because the coaches had no idea. We went out to the balcony overlooking the practice field and I told Coach Hoke (about the decision to commit) and he went in and told the entire coaching staff. Every one of them came out and I let them all know. Everyone was just going crazy and everyone was really happy.
“I just felt it was the right time and I didn’t really want to wait three weeks to do it then because I’m going to get a head start on recruiting kids to this class. I just want to get my name out there so other recruits considering Michigan know that I’m going to be a Wolverine. I mean this in the most modest way, but I kind of see myself as being a pretty high-profile recruit. When kids see that I’m going to Michigan they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I want to play with him. He’s a good player.’”
There certainly were opportunities for other program to derail Michigan’s momentum heading into his final visit. Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan State wound up mounting the most formidable threats, with each making their final pitches on visits immediately preceding his trip to Ann Arbor. Their efforts were all for naught, though, because the Wolverine brass won over a central figure in Clark’s circle.
“My mom got to experience this visit with me with my dad,” Clark said. “She wasn’t able to make the first one.
“She loves the coaches and the opportunity that I’m going to get in terms of education. It will really put me in a great position with a Michigan degree. I’ll do well in the job world. When football ends I’ll have a good opportunity and I won’t just be stuck on the fact that football is over. You’re set when you graduate from Michigan because it is a great place.”
Another deal-clincher for Michigan was the presence on the visit of Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone. After camping the entire week in Ann Arbor, the future Wolverine signal-caller stayed over an extra day to get to know his prospective teammate. They’d only corresponded on the phone and on Twitter before Thursday’s interaction, but when they finally got face-to-face, it was as if they’d known each other all of their lives.
“It was awesome getting a chance to hang out,” Clark said. “We spent a lot of time together. I just love him. I love the competitor that he is. He is an unbelievable leader. He is definitely the leader of this class. I think he is going to do great things because he is such a competitive kid. You can’t lose with a kid like Alex. He’s a good guy.”
“We’re the same type of kid. We’re both really competitive and he is just a perfect teammate.”
Clark isn’t going to wait until next year to start following Malzone’s lead. He plans to do so immediately on the recruiting trail. There are a number of targets that he has already identified as priorities, and he will seek guidance to identify others.
“I’m going to talk to Coach Nussmeier (Friday) and get a list of (recruits to talk to),” Clark said. “I know Damien Harris the running back (is one target). I know everyone loves him. He’s the No. 1 guy in the country. I know he committed to Michigan and decommitted, but I know he really likes them. I’m going to start talking to him a lot.
“(Receiver) Miles Boykin — I really like him a lot. He is a really good player. I know Michigan really likes him. I know he likes Michigan. I’m going to talk to him a little bit. Offensive lineman Matthew Burrell — I know Michigan made his top 15. I’m going to get in his ear a little bit. But I’m going to see where the coaches want me to go.
“I’ll reach out to anybody, I really don’t mind.”
So what is Michigan getting in Clark? The best tight end prospect in the country, according to Scout.com East regional manager Brian Dohn:
“Clark is every bit of 6-foot-6, 247 pounds, but he plays and moves like someone much smaller — unless we’re talking about physicalness,” Dohn said. “He runs well, gets in and out of breaks quickly and accelerates out of them, is athletic, already knows how to block, and he has above-average hands. And he plays fast. Really fast.
Clark has size, athleticism, hands and intelligence, and a love for getting better. He is physically ready to play now and should be a focal point of the offense at some point during his career. He should be a benchmark tight end for the Wolverines.
And there’s a good chance he will be an impact player on the recruiting trail also.
Said Dohn: “Michigan had a strong class already with five of its seven commits being rated with four stars, but getting the top player at a position, and the No. 26 player in the class overall, sends a different type of message. It’s the type of commitment that makes other prospects take notice, and he is the type of player who other prospects will talk to.”
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears weekly at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.