Notre Dame finally landed their quarterback for the 2018 recruiting class and one thing is clear, they really wanted one. After losing previously committed Cade McNamara to Michigan, and engaging in a battle to sway Graham Mertz from Wisconsin, Notre Dame zeroed in on three star Brendon Clark, from Manchester High School in Virginia.
There was some question as to whether Notre Dame needed a quarterback in the 2018 class with Brandon Wimbush, Ian Book, and incoming freshman Phil Jurkovec all with multiple seasons of eligibility remaining and 2020 signal caller Drew Pyne already announcing his commitment to the Irish. But, as we’ve seen in previous seasons, things can get wonky at the quarterback position and if you find one you like, it’s best to snatch him up if you can, clearly a belief the Irish coaches subscribed to.
The recruitment of Clark to Notre Dame didn’t last long; he was offered June 6th, visited on the 15th and committed on July 4th. Often when things progress this quickly, a player commits who I haven’t seen film of, and this was the case with Clark. Upon reviewing his junior highlight tape, I was pleasantly surprised.
Clark started for his high school as a sophomore, throwing for 2,373 yards, 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He completed 52% of his passes, not terrible or uncommon for a sophomore in high school. His yardage dipped as a junior to 2,006 passing yards, but his completion percentage went up to 61% and his touchdowns rose to 28 while throwing for just four interceptions. It’ll be interesting to see if there is another jump in percentage as a senior. 61% is ok, you’d like to see the high 60’s, and I’m sure he would too.
He plays out of the spread, more similar to what Notre Dame ran under Mike Denbrock than what Chip Long runs now. They are a lot more spread out with less tight ends on the field. The first thing that stands out with Clark as a passer is his comfort in the pocket. He isn’t panicking in there, he knows when to wait and deliver the ball even though a hit is coming, and his pocket presence is excellent. He can find the open space when the pocket collapses and either deliver a good pass or tuck it and run.
Speaking of delivering a good pass while on the run, Clark is good in this area, moving to his left or his right. He consistently squares his shoulders prior to delivering the pass, and he still shows good zip on his passes even on the move. His team moves him around the pocket quite a bit, with good results. They even run some RPO’s in his offense and he can hit his receiver while running at him with a player closing down on him.
He’s got a pretty strong arm, I’d compare it to DeShone Kizer, and he makes a number of different types of throws with ease. He probably relies too much on his arm at times, where he tries to make all arm throws into tight spaces. Those passes obviously worked out on his highlight tape, but he can’t get by on arm strength alone at the college level, and he’s not as polished as some other quarterbacks ranked a little higher. He’s similar to Golson in this regard, who could be very accurate when he stuck to his fundamentals, and then could fall apart if he was just trying to sling it. That said, Clark clearly knows he’s got arm talent, and I like that he is aggressive down field.
This was the eye opener for me, because I did not expect Clark to be as nimble as he was, since he’s listed as a pro-style quarterback on 247. I just assumed more of a pocket guy. Again, I would compare him to Kizer in terms of running ability, he’s not a burner, but he is a real threat if he gets a crease on the zone read. He also shows good instincts as a runner, when to cut up field, when to put a juke on and when to lower his shoulder. He ran for 688 yards as a junior and 12 touchdowns, not insignificant numbers on the ground.
He runs bigger than he actually is, or at least than he is listed. I keep comparing him to Kizer, but Kizer was two inches taller (6-2 vs. 6-4) and about 20 pounds heavier. Kizer was a bigger load in the run game, and Clark isn’t much bigger than Ian Book, but man, Clark just looks like a big, strong guy. He runs like a 6-4, 230 player, in terms of style. Not sure it holds up in college, frankly.
But, he’s good enough to where this is a strength of his game, and not just a throw away attribute.
He’s got skills that translate to the current Notre Dame offense, so I’m excited he is on board. The natural progression of the quarterbacks (Wimbush–>Jurkovec–>Drew Pyne) doesn’t provide that he’s a favorite to start for Notre Dame during his time on campus, but that was also true of Tommy Rees, Malik Zaire, and DeShone Kizer. And yet, all those guys started multiple games for the Irish after it was assumed they were throw-ins for their respective classes. My bet is there will be a Saturday when everyone is very glad Brendon Clark decided to play football for Notre Dame.