At the rate things are going, football coach Scott Crisco may need to install a helicopter landing pad at North Stanly High, thanks to C.J. Clark.
A four-star defensive tackle for the Comets, Clark has blown up on the recruiting front, causing coaches from some of the top programs in the nation to pull out all the stops to pay him a visit.
Recently, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, fresh off a College Football Playoff Championship Game appearance, coptered in to visit the rising senior. He’s at least the second coach to get to the chopper in an effort to see Clark—UNC’s Larry Fedora flew to one of his games last fall.
“As far as his size and speed, I have never had anybody who had the whole package,” Crisco said, “As far as 6-3 300 pounds who can move like a cat, I’ve never coached anybody like that before. A lot of times, a lot of coaches may go their whole career and never coach a player of that caliber.”
Clark is the No. 18 rated defensive tackle in the class of 2019, according to the 247Sports recruiting service’s composite index. He’s also the eighth-best prospect in the state. In addition to the Dawgs and Heels, he’s cultivated offers from Alabama, NC State, South Carolina, Penn State and Tennessee. The Crimson Tide had him in for a visit last fall, and he just spent some time with the Gamecocks earlier this month.
“He’s handled it well,” Crisco said. “Some kids get a big head. You would never tell he’s getting these kind of looks. In fact, this offseason, he’s working harder now that he’s gotten offers than in his first two years without offers. It seems like the more offers he gets, the harder he works.”
Clark was the consensus defensive player of the year for the region last season, despite fighting off double teams the vast majority of the time.
“He really came on the scene and wasn’t a secret anymore,” Crisco said. “They started doubling him more, which opens up spots for our other guys on the defensive front.”
One of the main reasons Clark has Power Five coaches so excited is his explosive speed. He’s not merely “fast for a 300-pounder”—he’s straight-up fast.
“Most people don’t know this, but he got his first looks for us on our kickoff team,” Crisco said. “He led our team in tackles on kickoff. You talk about 300 pounds, coming at you, not many people are going to step in front of that. He just has a nose for the football. All he wants to do is tackle somebody.”
Even Crisco didn’t know what to expect when putting Clark on the field for kickoffs.
“Originally, we put him out there to break up the wedge. Then after a couple of times on kickoff, we saw on film, not only was he busting the wedge, but he was getting downfield faster than our skill guys.”
His ability to get to the ball faster than anybody else has college coaches pulling out all the stops to get to North Stanly.