A year ago at this time Frank Clark was battling back from some self-inflicted adversity, all the while hoping to build on the promise that he showed during a havoc-wreaking Sugar Bowl performance. While he succeeded in getting back in the good graces of his coaches and teammates, he was disappointed with his 25 tackle, nine tackle-for-loss, two-sack showing. He vows to be better in 2013.
“I believe I’ve become a leader on this team and also (matured). I believe I had to mature over the past two years at the University of Michigan. I believe I finally realized that. I believe that everything, as far as my ability, to play on the field and my ability off the field collided and became one.”
Encouraged by Clark’s progress both physically and mentally, the coaching staff in Ann Arbor has challenged him to be a more prominent figure on the team in word and in deed.
“I’ve actually embraced it,” Clark said proudly. “Coach Mattison, he’s a smart coach. I’m so glad to be back under his wing and him coaching. Hopefully I have a good career in the future to come.”
Much of the Wolverines’ defensive success will depend upon Clark’s ability to improve his sack numbers and for the front-four do the same as a whole.
“I believe we’re not there yet,” replied Clark when asked about the front’s ability to generate consistent pressure. “We are going to be there by the first game which is August 31st against Central Michigan."
Coach Mattison has been preaching having a four-man pass rush since, I believe, the winter conditioning. Since winter started. Since spring ball. Having a four-man pass rush. Having four people, the four best pass rushers, the four best people with the best speed and the best pass rich capabilities get to the ball and get a sack. And basically that’s what he wants. So he can let our line-backers roam and let our safeties and corners get interceptions.”
The fact that there is a greater assortment of weaponry around to rotate into the lineup should help toward that end. Clark has certainly noticed the talents of the players backing him up.
“Taco [Charlton] and (Mario Ojemudia), they’ve been doing a great job,’ Clark stated. “When you have that confidence that you know when you sit down, you’re tired, you need a break in a game, you know you can send somebody else in with if not more capabilities than you; it brings a warming feeling to you. It’s like a confidence you have like, ‘Oh, Reo got my back or Taco got my back. I ain’t got no worries.’ And that’s basically the feeling you get.”
Now it’s just a matter translating those positive strides in practice to production on the football field. Clark certainly believes the tools are in place to do just that.
“I believe we are a faster defense,” he said. “That’s kind of what Coach Mattison has been working towards since he got here. To have a fast defense that can get to the ball and fly around.”
Question: So there have been so things said about you like you’ve been having your way at times with Taylor Lewan. Now I asked Taylor about that and Taylor said you have never beat him at anything. So I just wanted to ask you if that’s true? You never beat Taylor Lewann at anything on or off the field?
Frank Clark: "(Laughing) That sounds just like Taylor. The pride in the man takes over him. No. No. I would call it a fib if I told myself I never beat Taylor in anything. We battle, as far as the weight room, since winter conditioning. We battled every day. We battled every day to get better and it helped us competition-wise. As far as one-on-one’s, on the field since camp started, we battled. So, I have beaten him. I have beaten him a couple times. He has gotten me a couple times. And that’s the real."
Question: One thing he did say about you. He said that even at 275 pounds, you’re still running a 4.5 [40 meter dash]. Is that true that you run a 4.5 - 40?
Frank Clark: "People have been asking me that for the last couple months now. It was verified that during winter conditioning when we tested I did run a 4.53. So it’s a plus."
Question: I know it’s all about the team goal, winning the Big Ten title. But individually, what’s a successful season for Frank Clark?
Frank Clark: "A successful season for Frank Clark (is) first and foremost having a Big Ten championship. Wining the Big Ten championship, ten plus sacks, lead the Big Ten in tackles for loss, and have a nice amount of tackles."