We continue looking through some of the top prospects that have committed to the Syracuse football team today with Steven Clark, a big body from Alabama who the coaches will be looking to in order to shore up the interior of the defensive line. Clark committed on December 10, and there’s a lot to be excited about with this young man. Just take a look at his best weight bench statistics!

Prospect Info: 
#72 DT Steven Clark – Brindlee Mountain High  – Guntersville, Alabama
6’3, 289lbs
5.31 40 yard dash
26.1″ Vertical
380 Bench Press
565 Squat
34’ Power Ball
Offers from – Syracuse, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, Chattanooga, Furman, Georgia State, & Memphis
Interests: Minnesota & Duke

Tale of the Tape:

I was on record back when Syracuse offered Steven saying that I immediately fell in love with his tape. As a former Nose Guard/Defensive Tackle, nothing gets me more excited than a dominant defensive linemen.  There are certain things you look at when evaluating defensive linemen, especially bigger linemen. In Steven’s case, being 6’3 and 290 – I consider him a bigger defensive line prospect. At first glance, his SPARQ numbers are very impressive for a high school senior.   A 5.3 40 yard dash for a 290 pounder is very impressive. Once Steven gets into a D1 strength program, his body fat will decrease, strength and **good* weight will increase, and his 40 yard dash with proper technique can definitely go down to a 5.1/5.0. Here’s the thing though… How often are defensive linemen sprinting 40 yards? Probably on busted plays and when they are taking pursuit angles. 10 yard splits are much more important in my opinion. When watching tape, looking at burst off the line of scrimmage is very important.

The very first play on Steven’s HUDL tape, we see that he darts out immediately off the snap into a great starting position. A lot of larger defensive linemen get into the habit of standing up, engaging, and then trying to do their damage off of brute strength. Steven takes a quick power step, is moving forward with has his butt low, back straight, and hands out ready to engage. Even more impressively, is how quick he stops, sinks his hips, and moves to the screen; which ends in a violent tackle. That takes a lot of agility. I personally would love to see Steven in a four cone drill.  His agility is very good for a big man, and I’m willing to bet his lateral quickness is just as impressive.

Let’s take a look at some highlights from Steven’s tape.

1:o4 mark – Steven reads the quarterback rollout on this play. Many players get in a habit of taking bad angles here. They try and make a straight line to the quarterback and easily l results in letting the quarterback out of the pocket. Steven used good technique in grabbing the outside shoulder/middle of the chest plate on the offensive linemen, and moves at an angle to not get beat to the outside. That’s football IQ and good recognition. How can that be used in the interior defensive line? On run blitzes, NG’s and DT’s are usually slanting a certain direction off the snap, and it’s important to get hands on the outside shoulder pad/chest plate, because proper technique and using the proper angles is how DT’s get tackles in the backfield. This is especially useful against teams that try a lot of zone run-schemes. Eric Crume was very good at doing this, as well as Jay Bromely, but he was good at everything he did.
1:34 mark – Steven gets out of his stance very quickly, makes a good run read, and pursues the ball well on this play. Here’s where he could get in a bit of trouble. Notoriously, defensive line coaches hate swim moves or modified swim moves. It exposes a large chunk of your torso, and makes it easy to get down-blocked if you are facing a competent offensive linemen. Steve uses a mini swim move to get around the RB blocker which can work when facing players smaller than you.  As a defensive linemen, it’s important to have a bag of tricks to use when pass rushing move.  On the LOS, a pass-rusher needs to know what he’s going to do first, and then know what his secondary move is, just in case the first one is unsuccessful.  It’s important for Steven to keep adding tools to his tool bag when pass rushing.  A good club/rip technique can be deadly in the trenches.
1:42 mark – This is quite possibly my favorite play on the highlight tape.  Steven shows great acceleration off the snap, but the pretty part of this play is probably one that goes unnoticed to the untrained eye.  Steven displays a very natural hip bend in turning the corner to get after the quarterback. Hip flexibility helps you accelerate so much more quickly in the game of football.  If you can throw a great pass rushing move in with natural hip bend, it’s a great tool towards beating an OL on a pass rush.

2:11 mark – Here, we see Steven used the club/rip technique we spoke about earlier above.  He uses it to easily beat the offensive tackle to complete the QB sack.

Final Analysis

Strengths – It’s fun when you can say someone’s strength is their strength.  Steven’s tape shows he is a very strong individual who knows how to take of advantage of his power.  Even through his tackles, you can see him put his body weight and strength into his hits.  This could make for some fun highlights throughout his time on the hill.  Steven’s combo of power, agility, and speed for a 290lb man is definitely something that can set him apart from other defensive tackle prospects.

Areas of Improvements – One thing that jumps off Steven’s tape is when he is expecting the run, he has a tendency to take a shorter power step out of his stance, which causes him to come out high. When battling in the trenches, the lower man will always win the battle.  Steven should make sure to fire out low in his stance, get behind his pads, and utilize his hands so he can move the offensive linemen wherever he wants.  There’s a reason why it’s important for linemen to be strong in the bench press – it’s because they are bench pressing linemen coming at them every snap.  It’s also important for Steven to continue to develop his pass rushing skills, and not get heavily reliant on the swim.

Steven is most definitely someone who went under recruited in the process, probably because he played in a very small high school conference. I can tell you benching 380lbs and squatting 565lbs at the high school level is very impressive. Flexibility is key though. He needs to keep building strength, but make sure he keeps his flexibility, as that is what makes him so agile.  I think Stevens tape makes the case for definite 3 star status. With Minnesota close to offering, we see he is definitely a BCS prospect.  It’s harder to evaluate smaller school players, because the competition gap is much wider, however; Steven does exactly what he is supposed to do in this instance – dominate the competition.  The DL position is one of the hardest positions to make the jump to from the HS to College level.  With his combo of power, size, and speed; he’ll have the opportunity to make his mark from the get go.

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Justin is a 2011 graduate from SUNY Buffalo State. Since that time, he spent several years coaching high school football in North Carolina while also working at NC State, and has also served as a head and assistant tennis coach at the Division III and Division I levels. During this tenure coaching high school football, he sent players to continue their football career at Alabama, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Purdue, North Carolina State, East Carolina, and other Division II and III schools.