Cal freshman running back Derrick Clark fully recovered from knee surgery

BERKELEY -- After a setback this spring, freshman Cal running back Derrick Clark showed on Monday that he's back, healthy and pain-free.

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BERKELEY -- Over the last two seasons, freshman California running back Derrick Clark has piled up 3,916 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns at San Diego (Calif.), and when inside receivers coach Jacob Peeler asked to see his senior highlight tape, Clark sent him film.

You see, Clark, in addition to being a star baseball player (a junior year hitting .398 with five homers with 13 RBI and six stolen bases.), he's also been the team's starting punter each of the last two seasons. So, when Peeler asked to see some highlights from the then-three-star commit, Clark obliged with highlights of his punts. 12 of them.

"In our group chat, I linked it, and I said, 'Hey, guys, check it out, check it out,' and he (Peeler) ended up watching the whole highlight tape of me punting," Clark tittered, following his first fall practice.

That highlight tape was played during the 2016 recruiting class introductory press conference. Clark maintains he has a real tape of his senior season. It has yet to surface.

It turns out, Clark's own body was playing a bit of a joke on him, too. That knee of his plant leg for those punts -- his left leg -- began to stiffen up after his senior season wound down. Clark had never had any injury issues before, but it turns out, he was working on some worn shocks. "I took a little damage, towards the end of the season," said Clark. "When you're in the game, and everything's going, you don't really notice stuff like that. I really didn't notice anything. It was after the season, I took so much time off, things started to settle. I started to feel it more."

The pain was a "sharp, shooting pain," nothing you want to experience in your legs, as a running back.

So, when he got to Berkeley in January, as part of the routine physical examination, he was given an MRI. There was damage to the cartilage in his left knee.

In February, Clark went under the knife to repair the damage, and sat out all of spring ball, when he'd normally be getting a head start as an early enrollee, possibly seeing even more reps given the fact that Khalfani Muhammad was off running track. After surgery, and working with strength coach Mike Blasquez -- who Clark calls "amazing" -- Clark is pain free.

While he's now behind Muhammad, fellow Doak Walker watch list member Tre Watson and Vic Enwere, as well as spring standouts Patrick Laird and Billy McCrary III, Clark is feeling better than ever. "I feel great now. I feel excellent. They just wanted me to sit out the spring, make sure everything was all good," he said. "Running behind Vic, Khalfani and Tre, I'm just here to learn, first and foremost. Whatever happens, happens, but first and foremost, I'm learning from those guys. They're great backs with great futures, and I'm just a sponge."

On Monday, during his first official practice, Clark bounced to the outside on a screen pass, stuck his left foot in the ground, spun on it -- bouncing off of and around defensive back Trey Turner -- and pivoted upfield with no hesitation, no reluctance, and most importantly, no pain.

"Coming out of high school, I have never felt this great," Clark said. "I feel stronger than ever right now."

"We knew that he had some issues and had some stuff to work through," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "He's going to be fine. He's rehabbed well. I think he's kind of ahead of where we thought he'd be, honestly, at this point, in camp. I think everybody, from a strength and conditioning standpoint, to our training staff, has been impressed with where he is right now."

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