Lockdown corner talks Idaho pledge

REBUILDING THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD is a priority with the 2014 recruiting class, and Idaho has thrown its net as far as the Sunshine State in search of immediate impact talent. Last month the Vandals got the verbal commitment they were seeking from Baldwin High School standout athlete DORIAN CLARK (5-11, 177, 4.51), a First Team All-Gateway Conference defensive back in Florida's rugged Class 4A.

"I'm very excited about being committed to the University of Idaho."

We can only imagine the elation in Idaho's coaching offices the day when Baldwin (Florida) High School two-time First Team All-Conference defensive back Dorian Clark spoke his verbal commitment into the phone. The 2013 season was a transition year under first-year Idaho head coach Paul Petrino, where the Vandal defense - and the defensive backfield in particular - was carved up by a tougher-than-expected FBS Independent schedule that included games against National Champion Florida State and several teams that chose 2013 to turn things around.

It is no surprise then that Idaho is putting a premium on shoring up the defensive backfield with this recruiting class, with the primary task of bringing in more team speed that can compete immediately.

That's where Dorian Clark, a 5-foot-11, 177-pound three-year starter at Baldwin who boasts a 4.51-40 enters the picture. Aside from the athleticism that allows him to play tight man-to-man coverage while also being fearless in run support, he is explosive with the ball and is a selfless blocker unafraid of a little contact. There's also the fairly shocking statistics, such as in three years as the starter he never gave up a single touchdown pass to the receiver he was covering.

How that skill set will transfer against FBS competition remains a work in progress, but his accomplishments at the high school level are impressive and something to build on as he takes his game to the next level.

One of the first confirmed high school athletes to commit to the Vandals in this, Coach Petrino's second recruiting class, Clark verballed on December 12th and is taking his official visit to the Idaho campus this weekend (January 18th).

Defensive line coach Bam Hardmon, a standout linebacker with the Florida Gators from 1999-2002 where he earned All-SEC honors and was a team captain as a senior, has been instrumental in recruiting Clark to the University of Idaho. Following a pro career that ended in 2007 [he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2003], Hardmon began his coaching career at Illinois before heading to Charleston Southern and ultimately joining Coach Petrino's staff last year in Moscow.

"I've known Coach Hardmon since he was at Charleston Southern University my sophomore year," Clark told GoVandals.net "When he was there he was recruiting me, and we never lost contact. When he went to Idaho he came down to see me and we kept in contact last year during my senior season.

"He's from Jacksonville and played at the University of Florida," Clark added. "He's a big name in Jacksonville, and we have a real strong relationship."

BALDWIN HIGHSCHOOL MADE A MONSTEROUS JUMP before the start of the 2013 football season as Florida went through a reclassification of its high school programs. Baldwin probably made the toughest draw in the state, moving up three full classifications up from the smaller Class 1A into the "fearsome" District 3 Class 4A and the Gateway Conference.

"We were in 1A last year, were a real small school in a real small town," Clark recounted. "Our head coach tried to get us some more exposure, so he tried to move us up to 2A or 3A, but they [the District] moved us up to 4A, and that's a big leap. We finished 4-6, but we did pretty good competing."

Despite the team's struggles Clark continued making a name for himself. A three-year starter at defensive back for the Indians, he capped off an outstanding career with senior stats that included racking up 33 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions (Clark picked off three passes as a sophomore as well on their 2011 team that went 8-3). Offensively he accumulated over 300 receiving yards with four touchowns on the year. On special teams he added two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

"That's why it was such a big accomplishment for me when we moved up, I still made First Team All-Gateway Conference." Considering the jump in competition, being named one of the best defensive backs in the conference in his first year at that level is impressive by any standard.

SOLID IN HIS COMMITMENT TO THE VANDALS, Clark continues to get recruiting interest from other FBS programs as signing day fast approaches, including a team Idaho will be playing this fall - the Ohio University Bobcats.

"I've been recruited a lot by Ohio University, and they've been recruiting me since my junior season. I'm supposed to go on a visit out there, but I'm 100% committed to Idaho.

"Arkansas and Auburn University showed interest in me too -- they came out here for one of the big games we had."

Committed to Idaho since December 12th, one of the keys to his decision -- besides the academic opportunities at the University of Idaho -- is an opportunity to compete for a starting job this fall.

"I'm expecting to play immediately," Clark said when asked about his plans for this fall. "I met the cornerbacks coach, Coach [Mike] Mickens, over the phone and he said I've got a chance to come in and play early. That sounded good, and I'm ready for my visit Friday."

The book isn't totally closed yet on what position he will play in college, but his first look will be on the defensive side of the ball. "They recruited me as an athlete, but they're going to try me at DB first. I will be getting moved around if they need me at receiver, but I'm going in as a DB first -- cornerback is my favorite position."

Clark considers man-to-man coverage one of his strengths as he prepares to take his game to the next level. But he also quickly adds that he strives to play smart, and recognizes that film-study will be one of his top priorities.

With just four cornerbacks returning this fall (only two with serious playing time under their belt), competition to make the rotation should be intense.

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