O-D: Clarke Eager to Learn

APOPKA, Fla. - One of the top 15 defensive ends in the country, Alexandria (Va.) T.C. Williams defensive end Jeremiah Clarke had every reason to shut it down and take a break after a long season followed an even longer recruiting process, which ended in June with him picking North Carolina over 18+ scholarship offers.

That's just not his style, though, especially since he had a chance to compete with some of the best high school seniors in the country. That's what drew Clarke to the Offense-Defense Bowl, which culminates with the game Friday at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

"I want to learn some new technique from some skill coaches, get a chance to meet a couple players I might play later on in my college career and build on some skills and talents I have on the field," said Clarke. "It's a great chance to play against some of the top players in the country, a chance to travel to Florida and have fun for a week."

Listed at 6-5 and 275 pounds, Clarke – currently rated as the No. 11 defensive end in the country by Scout.com – was active against a talented group of offensive linemen who were caught off guard with his speed. In drills earlier in the week, Clarke could be seen using his frame and long reach to take advantage of poor hand placement and get into the backfield.

That's good news for the Tar Heels, who Clarke said are still debating whether to play him at defensive tackle or end next season. It won't matter to Williams, who played both positions at T.C. Williams and collected 38 tackles and 11.5 sacks as a junior.

"Either one of those positions would be great to play, especially with some seniors graduating," said Clarke. "It gives me a chance to come in and have a spot at playing, not to mention play under some great defensive ends."

Clarke said those two reasons played a big factor in his summer commitment. Claiming 15 BCS offers, Clarke said he was really high on Miami, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech, but was drawn to North Carolina because of the proximity to his home in Alexandria, Va., and the people there.

"It's far, but it's still close that I can be close to my family," said Clarke. "I love the coaching staff. They really know how to make you feel at home. The whole state of North Carolina is a good experience."

Joining a program coming off a dominating bowl win over Cincinnati, Clarke sees a bright future at his soon-to-be home.

"We have a lot of young people at North Carolina, a lot of freshmen and true freshmen contributing," said Clarke. "To be able to come in with that class, who is doing well, and give it a spark excites me for next season."

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