Maryland secured a commitment from Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.) offensive tackle Michael Clark March 27, and a day later his head coach, Michael Matta, offered up more insight into the 6-foot-8, 270 pounder.
Here’s our question-and-answer session with him:
Terrapin Times: Coach, just from talking to Mike myself four or five times, he just comes across as a really humble, down-to-earth kid. Could you just comment on his character and what kind of a kid Maryland is getting here?
Michael Matta: He’s a quality guy, for sure. He’s one of those guys who is going to do whatever is asked of him. He’s always on time, he’ll work hard, he’s very coachable, yes-sir-no-sir guy, wants to please, and has an incredible work ethic. If there’s something he needs to get better at, he’ll work tirelessly at it.
How good he becomes, there’s a lot you can’t really control with that. But Maryland has a good kid on their hands. They’re lucky. His knew teammates will have a great one in Mike, and the program itself is getting a quality kid.
TT: And what does Mike bring to the table as an offensive tackle?
MM: Have you met the guy? He’s 6-foot-8; he’s enormous. So he’s 6-8 and a lean 280. I think college football people see him as a big-time long lineman; he’s very, very long. He moves pretty well, he’s very coachable and he’s 6-8, 270-280, and I think he can get to 6-8, 330, without a problem.
TT: From a technical standpoint, what does Mike add?
MM: He’s getting better and better everyday, and he’s really big. I would say his strength right now is his run blocking, which is like most top high school linemen. He’ll have to develop his pass blocking, because we’re more of a play-action, bootleg kind of team. We don’t do a ton of drop-back passes, so we don’t teach those kinds of sets he’ll need in college. But he is a great run blocker. He likes to get down and dirty and maul people.
Everyone likes offensive tackles, especially in the Big Ten, and Mike’s a prototypical offensive tackle. Just a big, physical kid that likes to lock onto people and road-grade them.
TT: And what does Mike still need to work on to take his game up a notch?
MM: When you come to play in the Big Ten there’s a lot of stuff to work on, and he’s willing to do the work. The thing you have to understand is he’s a young kid. It’ll take time to get his size to be able to do all the stuff he’ll need to succeed at that level.
I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and I’m not naïve enough to think a high school offensive lineman is going to come in and play against grown men right away. Mike is 18 years old, so he’s going to take some time to figure out what he needs to do to be successful. But he will – that’s the best thing about him. He will do the work.
TT: How did the recruiting process go down with Coach John Dunn and Coach Randy Edsall? How were they throughout the process?
MM: Coach Dunn has been coming to our school for a number of years. Over the last couple years, we’ve had some pretty good kids, so Coach Dunn has been up here a number of times. The first spring he came up, we [coaches] actually went down to Maryland and saw how they operated. And we were pretty impressed, especially with Coach Dunn.
Coach Dunn, he’s such a standup guy. In today’s day and age of recruiting with you’re your sleazy coaches and backdoor way of recruiting, well, Coach Dunn is upfront, honest and a high-character guy. And I think that had a lot to do with Mike’s decision.
But anyway, Coach Dunn came up and saw Mike play and was interested in him. I recommended him after they watched him, and then Mike went down there for the Maryland-Wisconsin [basketball] game. He got real caught up in the energy, and the coaches just did a real good job with him. He liked it, [Edsall] offered him, and he was really excited.
A lot of schools were ready to offer him when May comes around, but Mike just loved it up at Maryland with Coach Dunn and those guys. And then his mom came with him on another visit, and she met with all the coaches down there too and really liked them.
Then Mike met with all the players, and he really fit in well with them. You know, when you’re 6-8 in high school you really stand out. But he’s sitting in a meeting room at Maryland with a bunch of guys like him, that are wired like him, and he felt very comfortable with that.
And I knew he wanted to stay within close proximity to his home. I don’t think he needed to be right next to his house, but in the proximity. And I think mom thought it was a pretty easy drive to get down there.
So add it all up and Mike’s a Terp. Maryland just did a tremendous job recruiting him – they really did. Hats off to Coach Dunn.
TT: When did you first know Mike could be a Big Ten lineman? Was it right away when he walked into Downingtown, or did it take him awhile to develop?
MM: I have a son the same age as Mike, so I’ve known him since he was a young fellow. We grabbed him up pretty early [in the youth leagues], and instead of throwing a thousand things at him when he was young, we kind of had a plan for him to get better every year. We wanted him to reach certain goals every year, and he did. He met all those goals and actually surpassed him.
When he was a young kid, he had a hard time bending his knees because he was so big. But by the time he was a sophomore in high school, he was doing a lot better getting out of his stance. He was always aggressive; we didn’t have to worry about that, but he just had to work on his technique.
Then this year he really started changing his body, putting in the effort in the weight room and watching his diet. His body changed a lot, and now he’s an impressive looking kid. If you saw him, you’d never guess he was 280 – you’d say 230. He’s big, but he has no fat on him at all.
TT: What’s Mike like around his teammates? How is he in the locker room?
MM: Great teammate, great teammate. Hard worker. This year he’s starting to show some leadership too. Last year we probably had the two best tackles I’ve ever had in my life, and Mike tried to emulate what they were doing. He’s lending hands to younger guys, encouraging people.
You know, I was in the college ranks for 17 yeas, and I think people change 10-15 percent during their time in college. But kids change a ton through their years in high school. So just to see Mike change and grow from an eager, wild-eyed kid into a team leader, and just the way he’s starting to get everything, it’s gratifying. I’m real proud of Michael.
TT: Last question Coach. Was there a play Mike made that sort of illustrates who he is? Was there a certain block that sticks out in your mind?
MM: He was getting pretty good this year. We have an outside zone play where we pin and pull; we block down and pull the tackle. As a sophomore, Mike wasn’t great at it, but he’s getting better and better. So I remember we pulled against Bishop Shanahan, and we were on the 8-yard line, first down. We were pulling towards the sideline, and the DB tried to come up and get around Mike, but [Clark] planted his foot, shifted his body, got on top of this 5-8, 5-9 kid and just steamrolled him. He just absolutely road-graded him.
And for a big guy, especially in high school, it’s hard to block a little DB in the open field. But Mike shifted, re-directed his hips and got ahold of the kid and absolutely face-planted him. I mean, he practically picked him up and drove him into the ground. It was one of those blocks you see on NFL Films – it was awesome.
I remember having a big smile and the O-lien coach was yelling, ‘How did that feel?’ You could see Mike had this huge grin on his face, like a light bulb just went off and the hard work was paying off. That’s really when he started to dominate.
Coach Speak: Michael Matta on Mike Clark
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