With the UCLA football season in a bit of a dead period in March — well before the NFL draft and spring practices occur, and well after the madness that was National Signing Day — Bruin Blue Digest will take a look at some prospects on UCLA's big board for the 2014 recruiting season.
We know, we know: It's early. To that we say, who gives a damn?
First up is Khairi Clark, a 6'3'', 311-pound defensive tackle out of Hollywood … Florida. (We didn't know this place existed either.) A four-star recruit, Clark is ranked as the 13th-best prospect according to Scout.com, and as the third-best defensive lineman in 2014. He's gotten offers from almost literally every program in the nation (save for the stubborn trio of Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State) and so competition will be stiff.
Let's take a look at a highlight tape of Clark, ascertain what we can from that, and direct our attention to the scouting reports after the jump.
What makes this highlight tape look unimpressive is that Clark plays in a 3-4 system as a defensive tackle, and though defensive tackle is the most important position in a 3-4, it's also the least heralded — he won't be responsible for many sacks and his primary job is to take up space and create holes for linebackers to make plays in the backfield.
In this video, he appears to do that well; on almost every occasion, Clark draws a double-team, perhaps his primary focus because he has to create gaps for linebackers to penetrate. Additionally, he's also actually getting into the opponent's backfield consistently and assisting in tackling the ball-carrier while forcing the pocket to collapse. Admittedly, it's difficult to see what he's doing quite often, but when you see him, he's almost always drawing the attention of the offensive line.
What do the scouting reports say about Clark? They laud his strength and size, while also praising his explosiveness in relation to the snap. The reports love Clark's ability to get a first push and take quick advantage of the opposition's offensive lineman. They also love his hands, his tackling skills and admit that he's a major disruption inside.
Of course, there are some criticisms. The most universal criticism is that he often pops off the line so quickly, he's actually attacking a lot higher than he should be, and thus, his pad level needs to be improved upon. They like his ability to adjust after a second, but they note that it's something that must change at the collegiate level.
In the context of UCLA football, Clark would be a pretty significant piece but there could be quite the logjam at defensive tackle in defensive coordinator Lou Spanos' 3-4 defense. Ellis McCarthy is just a true sophomore, and Kylie Fitts and Kenneth Clark have yet to move into Westwood. Clark will be a coveted piece, but for objectivity's sake, let's say his importance isn't as urgent as other positions UCLA could address.