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Better Know a Freshman: Damone Clark

Prepping in the shadows of Tiger Stadium outlines your football choices pretty clearly. It’s not too difficult to spell out the equation:

Baton Rouge Lab Football Player + LSU Football Scholarship Offer = LSU Football Player

Okay, yes, just last year Christopher Allen decided to make his own future in Tuscaloosa, but you’d be hard pressed to find another Lab kid in recent history that LSU wanted and didn’t get. Even ones that nearly got away, like Nick Brossette, wound up staying home. Even ones with lengthy offer lists and taking serious official visits, like Garrett Brumfield, wound up staying home.

Home is a hard place to run from and so it’s not shocking that Lab’s lone blue chipper from the 2018 signing class wound up following the steps of so many before him and taking the next step of his football career where it all started: home.

The Story

It should be no surprise that Kansas were the first to extend Clark an offer, the summer before his Junior season. The Jayhawks did their level best to get ahead of the top Louisiana prospects, a gamble that paid off in the eventual signings of Pooka Williams and Corione Harris. Clark became a household name on the prep circuit that summer and Florida, Mississippi State and Miami came through with offers as well. But no LSU.

The home team didn’t wait much longer, bringing Clark in for an unofficial visit in January. During the course of that visit the staff offered Clark a scholarship and just four days later, Clark pulled the trigger on a verbal commitment. His recruiting would not slow down. Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Arizona State came through with offers. Early in the summer, Michigan offered too and finally mid-summer, Texas came calling.

Things stayed pretty quiet for Clark. He took an unofficial to Austin during that summer. He took an unofficial to Gainesville for the UF/LSU game. Even though he was one of the few LSU commits to take a visit elsewhere, rumors never really got cooking about Clark potentially flipping.

Until November, when Texas turned up the heat even higher. As early signing day drew near, Clark decided to take a final visit to Austin, looking to validate his decision. Clark called the visit outstanding and Texas writers began to rumble that a flip may be on the horizon. The Texas coaches showed up in Baton Rouge a week later for an in-home, trying to seal the deal on the flip. LSU played it cool, sending Orgeron after his Texas OV and Aranda shortly after the Texas stopped in for an in-home. It proved enough. Clark shut it down for good and signed with LSU a couple days later.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .8923

Clark is on the cusp of a 3-star. I think there’s plenty to like here, though. Clark was named to the Army All-American All-Combine team ahead of his Senior season and was remarked as the best at his position at the event. He was named to the Offense-Defense Bowl. I think what you really love is his size and versatility. Here’s a guy who played LB, S and TE in HS. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds on LSU’s official roster. That’s impressive size. He’s already played in two games this season and at that size, it’s possible he may bypass a RS season altogether.

The Film

It’s easy to put a player into a box based on pre-conceptions. Clark is a big-bodied kid, so naturally a heavy-hitting, slow-footed thumper in the middle. Right? Not so fast /points pencil.

While I wouldn’t say Clark is a guy that plays sideline-to-sideline, his change of direction ability makes him a unique specimen on the football field. At the Army All-American camp when he took home All-Combine Team honors, evaluators raved about his ability to cover and you can easily see that translating with his change of direction ability. That change of direction wrapped in his frame opens him up to some unique possibilities. Could he possibly play on the outside? Or is he an inside guy all the way? Perhaps he can do both?

Otherwise, I think he’s got some progress to make refining his on-field skills. His tackling is largely just hurdling his large frame at moving targets: effective but not sound. He’ll have to learn to wrap up and bring ball carriers down. He looks like a prototypical run and hit type of player right now and that’s okay. He should be moldable in Aranda’s hands. He’s got physical tools you can’t grow on trees.

The Future

Plenty to like here. I’m intrigued by Clark’s size and athleticism. As a freshman, he’s working at ILB. I can picture him as a very devastating downhill attacker in Aranda’s scheme. He gives you some versatility with his ability to drop and cover, thus, the intrigue. Could you try him as an outside LB? Sure. I love the frame for a pass rusher. But I get the sense he’s long for the middle. It’s a good time for him to grow. Devin White is firmly entrenched and Jacob Phillips is a 5-star phenom. Patrick Queen has a year of seniority over him as well. That means Clark gets to ease into playing time without the demand of being an important contributor.

My guess is, Clark plays four games and takes a RS, in accordance with the new rules. Orgeron mentioned his freshman cohort Micah Baskerville by name this past week, so I think that establishes the pecking order. It makes sense, as Baskerville enrolled early and was cross-trained at a couple positions. Clark is just a touch behind everyone on the depth chart and that’s totally okay if not an outright good thing.

Give Clark a year to learn the system and add additional bulk and he could be in line for a starting position in 2019.

High End: Multi-year starter. Potential all-conference.
Low End: Quality reserve and special teamer.
Realistic: I think he winds up starting as a Junior or RS So. Should be a team leader and stalwart of the defense.