Chris Clark was a bit of a mystery. He was not recruited out of high school, and had an unusual way of finding his way on the football field at East Los Angeles College. But Syracuse, who appears to have landed the prospect, could have found themselves a diamond in the rough once he is declared eligible to play by the NCAA.
CuseNation.com spoke with Steve Mojarro, Clark's head coach at East Los Angeles College, to discuss how he apparently ended up at Syracuse, and get a detailed analysis of his game.
"Chris came to us as a kid who was not recruited out of high school," Coach Mojarro said. "He wasn't looking to play college football or anything. He was just trying to be, I hate to say it like this, but he was like a bag boy for two local kids that we recruited that were highly recruited. We had those two kids come in and Chris came along just sort of carrying their bags, watching their bikes, making sure that nothing got taken during practice.
"And he would just sit there and watch us practice from the bleachers."
Coach Mojarro continued, "Then one day, you know we see the kid around so we start talking to him a little bit and getting to know him. One day out of necessity we said we need another receiver. He said, ‘I'm pretty fast, I run real, real quick.' And we knew he ran track so we said ‘let's give this kid a shot at receiver.' He ended up coming out for us, ran some good routes. We already had a couple division-one receivers on the team, so he didn't get to play much his first year. He only caught one ball. But he worked really, really hard in the offseason. He got a speed trainer in the offseason, and worked hard. He ended up with 11 touchdowns for us last season."
From there, Syracuse coach and recruiting coordinator Greg Adkins gave notice to Kevin Lustgarten from JCFootball.com saying Syracuse was looking for a wide receiver. Kevin contacted a bunch of junior colleges stating he had a school looking for a wide receiver. Coach Mojarro sent a tape of Clark to Kevin who passed it on to Syracuse, and the staff immediately knew they wanted to see him in Orange.
Speed is something the Syracuse offense could definitely use, and Clark has plenty of it. Coach Mojarro said he runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, and a 10.8 or 10.9 in the 100 meters. That is the type of speed Syracuse just doesn't have, and desperately needs.
"That's the thing with his speed," Coach Mojarro explained. "He's really skinny. Whatever the Syracuse staff lists him at, that's what he is. He's a skinny guy, but the speed is what makes him such a threat. He's around 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 as well."
While Clark's speed is what he is known for, Coach Mojarro says he is an all-around receiver.
"He's a very good route runner. He runs his routes very crisp," Coach Mojarro detailed. "He is very agile, but the number one thing is, if you're playing off on him and not playing man, he will just run right by you. He'll give you a little jab move and he'll be up the field before you know it. That's what he did to a lot of the better corners in our area.
"There were a couple corners that ended up signing division-one and he made them look bad, went right by them. But even when they press, he's real quick and knows how to work the swim move and stuff."
In recent years, Syracuse fans have grown impatient the drops the receivers have had. Coach Mojarro said Orange fans will not have to worry about that with Clark.
"Chris has very good hands," he stated. "He has really good hands. He played quarterback in high school. So he's got big hands and a good grip to grip the ball really well. No drops or anything like that.
"He's definitely a guy who you can rely on to make the catch. Yeah, sometimes when you get these track guys you put them on the field and they can't catch. Not Chris. This kid can catch."
In addition to his on the field skills, Chris Clark is someone who can represent Syracuse University well off the field, Coach Mojarro says.
"The nicest kid you're ever going to meet," he recalled. "We send kids to school usually around here. Utah, Kansas, other local schools like USC. But we never send somebody out to the east coast and especially Syracuse with that rich tradition. When you have these kids sometimes, inner city kids, they're a little rough. Then they go out to these places and you never know how they're going to fit into to those kinds of schools. Chris is just the ideal type of guy to go into a school like Syracuse. He's a very educated kid who speaks very well and is very humble. We have a couple kids who are in the NFL that were on our teams before and Chris would look at them and say ‘am I ever going to be as good as these guys?' We would tell him he's just like them. He's at their level. He never brags or anything like that, he's just a humble, humble kid."
In Coach Mojarro's opinion, Clark is a legitimate division-one receiver with a lot of upside. He believes, he can make a big impact at Syracuse.
"The number one thing with Chris is his speed," said Coach Mojarro. "He can press any defense when he goes vertical and that will open up everything underneath. You want to have a guy on your team who makes the defense play back and you can have open receivers underneath. If you have a nice slot receiver or good back in the flat or a screen, you can dump it to them and have a wide open field to gain good yardage. Then if they take that away, Chris can run past people into the endzone."
"If he redshirts he'll have the opportunity to get in the strength and conditioning program which we don't have here," Coach Mojarro continued. "That will allow him to bulk up. He's got the size to definitely put on a few more pounds to make him a lot bigger and stronger. The need of receivers at Syracuse, from what I was told, is they need an impact player. Chris is ready to go, and he runs faster than anyone else. I think he definitely can make an impact. But if they redshirt him, he can make an even bigger impact the following year because he'll be bigger and stronger."
According to Coach Mojarro, the only reason Clark is not officially in the Syracuse directory on the roster is an NCAA clearing house issue with his transcript. The reason is because they end their semester so late and it takes some time for the grades to come in and his transcript to become available to send to the correct parties within the NCAA. However, Coach Mojarro says his grades will not be an issue. Clark is a bright kid who got very good grades at ELAC.
Clark will have three years to play two at Syracuse once he is declared eligible, and has been on campus since June.
CuseNation.com's John Garcia Jr. contributed to this report