The Michigan Wolverines are looking to bring more pressure with their defensive line in 2013 as they attempt to adjust to defense without their sack-leader from 2012 Jake Ryan. It appears that defensive end Frank Clark has answered the call and is poised to lead the Michigan pass rush in his junior season, giving Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison a reliable presence off the edge. But could he step up as the best pass rusher in the whole Big Ten?
His track record doesn’t really suggest so. Clark enters 2013 with just two career sacks, both coming in 2012. During his first two seasons on the roster, Clark just hasn’t shown that killer instinct to get after the quarterback on a consistent basis and his approach has often been one-dimensional. While his speed and athleticism has helped him be around a lot of plays, it hasn’t translated into Clark being the one making those plays.
But he has worked this offseason to change that. Hitting the weight room this winter, Clark has added weight while maintaining his speed and athleticism, giving him both the strength to bull-rush blockers and the agility to work around them. Having that added dimension has made him a difficult match-up for teammates during the spring sessions and could mean trouble for Michigan’s opponents next fall.
It isn’t out of the question for a player to seemingly come out of nowhere and become a pass-rush presence in the Big Ten. Tyler Scott recorded just two sacks during his sophomore season in 2011 for the Northwestern Wildcats. An offseason of training and working on his pass rush technique, however, helped him become the co-leader in sacks for the conference with nine quarterback takedowns in 2012. It just took putting in the work for the switch to get flipped.
Clark has put in the work this offseason. Will he be able to flip the switch in 2013 and become a premier pass rusher in the Big Ten next season?