“We’re excited that Derrick will be joining our football program in January,” head coach Sonny Dykes said. “He is a versatile running back with a skill set that fits nicely into our offense both running the ball and coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He also has tremendous character and an excellent academic background that will serve him well within the culture of our football team and in the classroom.”
With reports of California head coach Sonny Dykes interviewing at Missouri this week, the Bears' skipper got back to recruiting in Southern California, visiting quarterback signee Max Gilliam and running back commit Derrick Clark.
The visit to Clark's home in San Diego was well-timed, as Clark had just come home from the funeral for his mother's aunt.
"I came in, and he was talking to my father," Clark said. "We talked about a lot of things. We talked about current Cal players, guys in the League, we talked about everything. We talked about his flights and everything, my official visit, when that would be. It was great having him around. It was definitely a great way to end the day."
Clark was aware of Dykes's courtship by the Tigers, but the subject wasn't addressed, at least, directly, during the two-hour visit, starting at 3 p.m., and ending as Clark left to attend his team banquet.
"I knew it was out there; I was aware of it, but I didn't really pay that much mind to it," Clark said. "He kind of put it out there, in a way that he was going to be around for a while, I would say. When he was talking to me, he was telling me how he was excited that I'm going to be a mid-year. He said, 'We're really excited for your class,' referring to the 2016 class, and he said, 'We've got a special class on our hands.'"
It was the tenor of the conversation -- talking about the future -- that helped quell whatever worries Clark may have had.
"The way he was talking to me, he sounded really sincere," Clark said. "I believe he'll be around for a while."
Buried in that, of course, is the news that Clark will be enrolling early at Berkeley. In fact, the financial aid agreement is sitting in his inbox -- he just got the forms on Wednesday -- and he's expecting to sign soon. He will make his official visit on Dec. 15 or Dec. 22, he said.
"Whenever I sign it and send it back, it'll be official," Clark said.
The early graduation wasn't always the plan, as it was with other early signees like Gilliam and offensive lineman Jake Curhan. Transferring from La Mesa (Calif.) Helix to Mission Bay his sophomore year complicated that endeavor, but despite having to double up his final semester, he's maintained a 3.9 GPA.
"It was actually pretty difficult, because I had to double up on my classes," Clark said. "The other guys, they were starting out on track to graduate early, but when I transferred, all my classes got jumbled up, so I had to double up on a few classes."
Clark -- one of Cal's earliest commits in this class, pledging back in April -- committed to the Bears as a running back, but last season, Clark served as quarterback for Mission Bay, completing 34 of 57 passes for 630 yards and two touchdowns, while running 128 times for 1,519 yards and 23 scores, with seven 100-yard rushing games.
This season, Clark has been serving solely as the running back for the Buccaneers, as they've marched to a 10-2 record with another playoff game looming on Saturday.
Clark has earned first-team All-Western League honors for the second straight season, rushing for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns on 191 carries in his first campaign at running back, while adding nine receptions for 236 yards and three touchdown catches and also throwing three scoring passes during cameo appearances at quarterback.
Clark admits that the position move has been bittersweet.
"Last year, I always had the ball in my hands, but we've got a quarterback this year, and the receivers have stepped up," said Clark. "It's taken pressure off me. I wouldn't have the numbers I did last year. It's just not possible, not having the ball in my hands every single down, but I've done what I'm supposed to do this year. We're in CIF, and I've just played my part.
"I'm a playmaker, so I always want the ball in my hands. But, it's different for me. It was really different for me. It was a slower pace, but it also allowed me to work on some things that I know I'm going to need for the future, along the lines of blocking, some things from the running back position. If I'm going to be playing that at the next level, I've got to start working on it this year. Going back to my natural position has allowed me to do that. I've always been a great blocker, but when I transferred over, I didn't block anybody because I was a quarterback. This year really allowed me to work on that."
Clark's been happy to work on what he needs to work on, but more than that, the 10-2 record is what counts.
"I'm just there for the team, more than myself," he said. "Once I committed, I was going to do what I had to do to help my team, and be where I need to be."