Small Town OT Clark Raises the Bar

The Virginia Class of 2015 prospect made a strong impression on the Penn State staff. Get the latest on his offer list and recruitment.

Lexington, Va., had just fewer than 7,000 residents in 2011, and Rockbridge County High School, with an enrollment of 1,100, calls the AA classification home for most varsity sports. Needless to say, it's a small town.

There is plenty of small town feel, too, especially when it comes to Friday nights and home football games. But, unlike most small towns, it's quickly finding its bleachers filled with college coaches, ones eager to watch the offensive line.

That's where junior-to-be Austin Clark goes to work for the Wildcats, lining up his 6-foot-6, 280-pound frame at tackle and bursting full speed ahead into opposing defenders.

Clark had four offers before he arrived at University Park for Saturday's final Advanced Skills Camp of the summer at Penn State. By the time he hit the road back to Virginia, his ledger had swelled to five.

The tackle picked up an offer from Penn State just months after he first spoke with his PSU recruiting contact, running backs coach Charles London. Like the camp, he called the offer exciting, too.

"Coach London said they would love to have me at their camp at Penn State, and that's one place I always wanted to visit and see for myself," Clark said. "I've always heard about Penn State, and how good they are and their football tradition.

"I've heard about everything like that, and that's on top of their top-of-the-line academics."

Already touting offers from Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and Tennessee, Clark received his offer from State head coach Bill O'Brien after camp had concluded. It wasn't the first coach he interacted with in blue and white, though.

That honor was left to line coach Mac McWhorter, who, along with O'Brien, has quickly begun filling up Penn State's big board with Class of 2015 offensive linemen. Fight On State counts six offensive tackles already holding offers in that cycle.

Clark felt his best moments came during work on pass protection, an admitted strength of his game. That plus carried over to the competition portion of camp, where he routinely turned away would-be rushers with a strong plant and quality hand work.

He also counts run blocking among his strengths, and the reason for that is simple. "I always finish my blocks," he said. "Whether I pancake them or push the defender back 20 yards, I finish them one way or the other." He went on to add that the visit exceeded his expectations.

"Coach Mac is a great coach, and I learned a lot of new technique and different types of stuff like that that I will take away and use this year," Clark explained. "It was a little bit of pass blocking, a little bit of run blocking and a lot of good technique.

"I think that he's an honest guy, and the type of coach that wants you to become the best you can be. Coach O'Brien talked to me about what he saw in my film, and what he saw throughout camp.

"He thought I was exactly what they were looking for in an offensive lineman," Clark continued. "I was really excited, and really honored by that."

The tackle saw most of Penn State's football facilities throughout the day. He picked out the weight room and the atmosphere of the program as the two elements that most intrigued him.

He went on to add that State's weight room has an advantage compared to the ones that he has already seen, and that is its size. Clark would not be the first prospect to leave in awe of the room strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald has to utilize, but he certainly left just as impressed.

A trip back to University Park is in the works for the fall, and it is then that he hopes to learn more about what State has to offer academically, and also see more of the sprawling campus. He noted that academics will be just as important in his decision as factors on the field are.

"It exceeded my expectations. I expected it to be great and everything, but it went above and beyond my expectations," Clark said. "I drove up and saw the stadium, and was in awe of how big it looked. I can imagine all the fans in the stadium, and it was really cool."

A July trip to Virginia remains on Clark's summer itinerary, as does a camp at Virginia Tech. The unofficial visit to Charlottesville will mark his second trip to campus, and this time, he wants to observe how head coach Mike London and his assistants operate.

Line coach Scott Wachenheim is the point man in Clark's Cavalier recruitment, and he added that he speaks with the assistant at least once a week when time permits.

"They are definitely one of the schools that has top-of-the-line academics, and at the same time, their football program is on the rise," Clark explained. "I kind of just want to get a feel for how the coaches work, and their coaching style, and things like that. I'm going to observe camp."

He'll also observe the Lions' program throughout the fall, and see where his recruitment goes once it inevitably expands from the current handful of offers.

Most importantly for now, though, he gave defenders a handful Saturday, and the performance helped draw an offer he didn't expect but appreciates nonetheless. He added his most improved skill set this offseason has been his pass protection. That's grown, he said, thanks to work with college coaches at camps and with his high school coaches.

"Coach O'Brien said about my size, both that he likes it, but also how I carry it, too," Clark said. "I don't look like I weigh that much, but for my size, I'm athletic and flexible.

"I'm from a small town, and not a lot of recruits and college coaches come through here. The recruiting process hasn't been so much overwhelming, just exciting. "

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