The commitments keep on coming for California, as the football team pulled down its second commit in as many days, coming off a pair of Friday visits by newly-minted Cal quarterback pledge Max Gilliam out of Thousand Oaks (Calif.) and Saturday’s commit: San Diego (Calif.) Mission Bay running back Derrick Clark.
“I had a great visit yesterday, checked out the school, and I was very impressed with the staff and the campus, and Cal’s just the best place for me to play as a true freshman,” said Clark, who sports a 3.7 GPA. “The coaching staff, they were just all for me, they were all for their players, it seemed like they wanted the best for their players and that’s what really caught my eye.”
The commitment came together almost at the same time as Gilliam’s, while both were in the offense meeting before Friday’s practice.
“Another reason why I committed was because the quarterback from Thousand Oaks High School committed yesterday, and it was great spending some time with him,” Clark said. “We were in the offensive meeting, and the coaches were joking around, saying how it would be nice to have him handing me the ball, and we just looked at each other and started thinking about it. I watched his film, and I was very impressed. I would love to play with a quarterback like him.”
Clark spent about five or six hours on the Cal campus on Friday, after driving up from Southern California on Thursday night, after school.
“We got there at around six in the morning, seven, stayed in the hotel, rested a little bit and headed straight for Cal,” he said. “We started off meeting the coaches, the offensive coordinator came out, talked to me, walked us in, and then we went to strength and conditioning, met with [Damon Harrington], got our heights, weights, talked about the program, then I watched a little motivational video on Cal, talked to the counselors and stuff like that, looked at my classes and all that good stuff, and I finished off meeting with the head coach. Then, I went and checked out the equipment.”
Clark tried on a Cal No. 2 jersey – the same number he wears in high school – and took in the panoramic view from atop California Memorial Stadium.
“It was a really big trip,” Clark said. “It was one I couldn’t miss. It’s so close to home, and it’s such a benefit that I had to go on it.”
The Bears would certainly have no shortage of running backs returning by the time Clark enters, with Vic Enwere, Khalfani Muhammad, Tre Watson and Lonny Powell still around by that point, but Clark is more than confident that he could compete. Last season – while playing quarterback because the Buccaneers didn’t have one – Clark rushed 128 times for 1,519 yards and 23 touchdowns, with seven 100+ yard games.
“The main guy [Daniel Lasco] is leaving, and he backs that are there, they’re going to be older,” Clark said. “I don’t care how much time I get freshman year, as long as I get to play.”
Clark is a unique prospect at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, with a 4.46 40 time, and he describes himself as a “power back with speed.”
“From what I understand, the offensive coordinator [Tony Franklin] told me that he loved the way I finish runs,” Clark said. “I’m a power back that’s also very fast, very agile, and I’m elusive. I can make people miss, and when I need to get the job done, I’ll lower my shoulder and run over people.
He is also a baseball star at Mission Bay, and could very well be picked up in the Major League Draft next July, after he’s signed his National Letter of Intent. If that happens, he says, he’ll pursue baseball, but, as he also says, there are no bad options for him, at this point, between going to Berkeley or pursuing his big league dreams.
“Another reason why I chose Cal, is because I’m also a top prospect for baseball, so I might get drafted out of high school, and Cal just seems like the right place, because if baseball doesn’t work for me, if I don’t get drafted out of high school, I’m strictly going to play football,” Clark said. “Cal would be the best place to do that, in my opinion. It’s strictly Cal football, if I don’t get drafted.”
Clark – who plays shortstop and center field -- has the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and others sniffing around. He feels like he’s in a good position to be drafted high, but, “if not, it’s Cal.”
“I’m hoping it’ll work out, but if not, I know I’m in good hands with Cal,” Clark said. “I’m in a great position, either way. There are a lot of schools that are looking at me for baseball, but if I don’t get drafted, I want to just focus on one sport in college, and perfect my craft.”
What does he want to perfect in particular? It’s a tough question for Clark, because he wants to improve so much.
“As a running back, I would like to work at the position more, because I’ve been playing quarterback this whole year,” he said. “I would like to spend more time getting to know that position, as well as I can.”
Clark is more than happy with his decision, especially because academics were a big part of the equation.
“That’s really why I chose Cal, because I didn’t want to go too far from home, and going to Cal was basically like going to Stanford, in my opinion – they have a great academic program, they have a lot to offer, and even if football doesn’t work out, I’ll be set for life,” Clark said.