January 23, 2014
Top 25 Countdown: Frank Clark
Junior defensive end Frank Clark came into the 2013 season full of hopefulness and determined to make a major impact on what he figured to be a dominant defense. He encountered some disappointments along the way, but still managed to rise to the No 8 spot in Michigan's Top 25 list.
The Top 25 is voted on by the Staff of TheWolverine.com.
Preseason Expectations: Clark made it very clear coming into his junior season, he didn't want to just be a highlight performer. Everyone remembered his teeth-rattling sack on Ohio State's Braxton Miller in the finale at Columbus the year before.
That was great, Clark noted. But he wanted to become known for more playmaking consistency and a high-level of pressure on the quarterback. He expressed considerable excitement about the way the Wolverines had worked on the pass rush, and insisted he wanted to be a major component in that.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison liked the way Clark was thinking. Mattison noted consistency is precisely what Clark needed to achieve this season, and was looking forward to seeing it on the field.
His Season: The junior made some strides, but fell short of the type of year he himself envisioned, the sort that might have even set up a jump to another level of football. Clark was the most intrusive defensive lineman the Wolverines featured, recording a team-leading 12 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks among his 43 tackles.
He also led the team in quarterback hurries, with seven, broke up a pass, and scooped up two fumbles during the year. In fact, those occurred in the same game, Clark returning one for a touchdown to spur Michigan's second-half comeback to take the Penn State game to overtime.
Clark also stepped up against Michigan State, leading the Wolverines with nine tackles, including 2.5 TFLs, in that loss. He struggled in the final two games of the year, making just one tackle each versus Ohio State and Kansas State.
Here is a game-by-game breakdown of Clark's results:
TheWolverine.com Analyst Will Heininger: "The expectations for Frank were high this year. He would tell you that he would have liked to do more. However, I saw some things towards the end of the year from Frank that I haven't seen in any of his games to that point.
"It was a true understanding of what was happening from an offensive perspective and an ability to use that information to make more plays. The Iowa game comes to mind, specifically, in terms of some of his movement.
"Frank's a good movement guy, but when you have a stunt move or a slant and you're supposed to go one gap inside, you want to get that gap, but you want to get horizontal quickly so you can get vertical even more quickly. If you can take that step, plant your foot and get vertical, you can cause real havoc.
"Frank started doing that in the second half of the year. He started being more physical on run plays. He started pushing guys into the backfield. He really became a much better player against the run than people has expected of him.
"He would tell you his biggest need for improvement would be on the pass. He has the tools to do it. He just needs to focus specifically on that. Frank put on a lot of weight this year, and he looks good. It looks like it's good weight, but it's always an adjustment when you gain 40 or 50 pounds from your freshman year.
"I hope that Frank takes his ability, gets together with his classmates, and turns in an excellent senior season. Anyone who watches Michigan football has seen he has the ability to do it."
Sneak Peek At 2014: Clark should be highly motivated for a senior season in which he wants to make a statement, both individually and team-wise. As a senior, he ought to be one of the leaders in off-season workouts.
He should get off to a better start than he did last season, and definitely would like to finish stronger. A highly motivated Clark can be a dangerous weapon for the Wolverines, and they'll be looking for precisely that designation for him.
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