One of the biggest remain recruits on the market in the weeks leading up to signing day is 2015 Avon (Conn.) Old Farms five-star tight end Chris Clark.
Previously committed to North Carolina and Michigan, visiting several schools, adding some to his list, dropping others from that same list, it appears Clark is in the home stretch with the Wolverines back in strong contention following Jim Harbaugh’s move to Ann Arbor.
“It’s definitely been crazy since the hire of Coach Harbaugh and stuff,” Clark told Scout Sunday. “In terms of just hearing from a lot of people from Michigan but I’ve kind of just really gotten down to two schools that I like with UCLA and Michigan.
“I’m just trying to get on these official visits to both schools and that will be able to help get a better understanding of where I want to go.”
Clark and his parents plan to hit the road for both visits in the two weekends that follow the ending of the recruiting dead period on Jan. 15, though neither have been set just yet.
For Michigan, the sudden jump back near the top of Clark’s list begins and ends with Harbaugh. In one phone conversation since taking the job with the Wolverines, Clark hung up impressed and intrigued with what possibilities could be had under the former San Francisco 49ers coach.
“Obviously because of the previous commitment I made to them, I picked Michigan because it’s an unbelievable school with so many great things to offer in terms of the social life, athletics and academics,” Clark said. “It was pretty easy to say that I’ve still always had a tremendous interest in them even after Coach Hoke got fired.
“Now, with the addition of Coach Harbaugh, a coach that has a track record of using tight ends, I mean he’s produced six or seven NFL tight ends in his time at Stanford and he’s produced some of the best ones in the league right now in Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz so, he definitely has a commitment to using them in his offense. Even with Vernon Davis and a couple of the other guys he used with the 49ers, he just knows how to get production out of the position so that’s something I really like.
“He probably is one of the best head coaches for the position in college football now so that makes a lot of sense in terms of the football aspect. And then like I said, with the academics, getting a degree is really important and Michigan is one of the best in the country.”
Clark spoke highly of Harbaugh’s intensity and competitiveness even over the phone, dead set on returning Michigan to a status as a national power.
The Bruins and Coach Jim Mora Jr. are fresh off a 10-3 campaign that ended over the weekend with a 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl.
Similar to Harbaugh and Michigan, the NFL connections and coaching style is a major plus for the budding Pac-12 power.
“He has a great NFL track record, coached in the NFL as a head coach,” Clark said. “He knows exactly what it takes to get there. He’d be able to show me what it takes to develop and what NFL coaches and what NFL front offices are looking for in players so he has that to offer and UCLA is just an up and coming powerhouse. Since he’s gotten there they just went back-to-back 10 win seasons so they’re definitely a school that is learning how to win.
“In California, there’s not much better weather than that and obviously it’s an unbelievable school. It’s just a unique opportunity to go somewhere where the number one quarterback in the country will be going in my grade, getting a chance to play with him. That’s a big advantage cause you want to play with the best players. There’s no better quarterback than Josh Rosen.”
On Michigan and UCLA, Clark added, “They’re both pretty similar schools,” Clark said. “One just happens to be on the west coast and one happens to be closer to me.”
Clark did state his mother would probably prefer to have him stay closer to home but he does have full support from his parents whichever school he chooses.
But what will it take for Michigan or UCLA to earn his signature on National Signing Day? Clark says the visits are crucial.
“It’s kind of different now because I’ve never been on campus at UCLA,” Clark said. “I still have to go visit them and get the whole thing, where as with Michigan my whole point of the visit is really just to meet Coach Harbaugh in person and kind of see what he’s like and the new staff is like. For Michigan, it’ll be just kind of how I feel with Coach Harbaugh and do I think it’s someone I would like to play for cause I kind of already know everything about the academics and what the school is like.
“For UCLA, big things that will go into that is do I like the travel, the distance, how do I feel being so far away and just how I feel with all the coaches. Also, getting a chance to meet all the players and see if they’re similar to what I’m like. There’s a little bit more things that UCLA has to show me where as Michigan doesn’t have to show me as much just the coaches.”
Based on his previous verbal commitment to Michigan under Brady Hoke, Clark did admit that gives the Wolverines a slight edge down the stretch in his recruitment.
“I would say I think UCLA, right now, in terms of the opportunity, it’s better there,” Clark said. “But I’d say in terms of my comfort level and in terms of where I know more about, it would definitely be Michigan.
“But I think the opportunity is a little greater at UCLA from all the stuff I know now but I think in terms of where I probably feel more at home or where I feel more comfortable with, Michigan would have that advantage right now.”