The Michigan Wolverines were forced to open up their search for some pass rushing help this spring following the unfortunate injury to linebacker Jake Ryan. Already a point of emphasis for Brady Hoke and his defense in 2013 after finishing No. 78 in the country with 22 sacks a year ago, the pass rush became a major point of concern for defensive coordinator Greg Mattison during spring practice. Luckily, they may have found their answer along the defensive line following the breakout spring of defensive end Frank Clark.
The junior defensive end has been generating more buzz this spring than anyone on the Michigan roster and has been impressing coaches and teammates with his improvement from his sophomore season. In 2012, Clark appeared in all 13 games for the Wolverines but made just 25 tackles, including 9.0 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. He has bulked up this offseason to 277 pounds (up from 262 in 2012) but has maintained his quickness and athleticism, making him a major handful off the edge.
His teammates, particularly those who have had to block him in practice, have taken notice. Right tackle Michael Shofield praised Clark’s strength and ability to bull-rush while also admitting he was one of the fastest first-step defensive linemen he has faced. All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan agreed and has found handling the junior in practice much more difficult than it was last year. Clark has even won a few of their battles.
Michigan will need him to win a lot more battles next season when the Wolverines take their shot at the Big Ten title in 2013. If the Wolverines are able to get consistent pressure with their front four, led by Clark and senior Jibreel Black, it will open up so many more possibilities for Mattison’s defense with coverages and pressure packages that won’t be relied on for pressure, but can just add some extra heat when necessary.
For the Wolverines to succeed in 2013, they need more from their pass rush. Even though they will be without their two leading sack-artists from 2012, Michigan is in a position to get that extra pressure thanks to the emergence of Frank Clark off the edge. Will he be enough to take Michigan to the top of the Big Ten next season?