Steelers 2014 NFL Draft Player Profiles – West Virginia DE Will Clarke
Good friend Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services has finished his player profiles of several of the top 2014 NFL Draft prospects and over the course of the next few weeks I will be posting the ones that the Pittsburgh Steelers will more than likely have interest in. A reader requested that I post the profile of West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke, so today it’s time to post his profile that was prepared by Thomas, who has done these for the NFL for several years now.
WILLIAM “Will” CLARKE
West Virginia University Mountaineers
Taylor Allderdice High School
After three seasons lining up at weak-side defensive end, Clarke was shifted to the demanding strong-side tackle position as a senior. Usually, when a player changes positions late in his career, there will be some kind of adjustment period, but the hard-working Clarke not only excelled at his new assignment, he adds to his resume, as teams utilizing a 3-4 defensive alignment have an additional emerging talent to analyze.
Clarke is a player that has been labeled as “country strong,” as he uses his strength to easily walk the blockers back into the pocket. With his quickness off the snap, long reach and powerful hand punch, he also offers teams a player who can capably perform as an under-tackle.
Clarke also displays very good lateral agility, flowing easily as he moves down the line in pursuit. He has natural knee bend to quickly redirect and the explosive initial step to get by a lethargic blocker to pressure the pocket and give chase in the backfield. He has developed a nice array of moves to set the edge and as one of the strongest Mountaineers in the history of the program, he has proven to be highly effective in winning one-on-one confrontations.
That was never more evident than when Clarke was performing in Mobile throughout the week-long practices leading up to the 2014 Senior Bowl. Most of the offensive linemen were having good success vs. the defensive front four units on both squads. That is, until they matched up vs. Clarke.
Notre Dame’s Zach Martin was having an outstanding week vs. other defenders, but when taking on the West Virginia prospect, the Irish lineman struggled to defeat Clarke’s hand punch and was constantly fended off by the WVU opponent when trying to latch on to Clarke. With his long arms and active hands, none of the other offensive lineman had much success keeping Clarke out of the backfield.
Clarke is a self-made player, a product of the Mountaineers’ renowned weight training program. He is the first player in school history to be honored as an Iron Mountaineer three times, which is awarded to a player that displays excellence in the weight room.
Before he arrived at West Virginia University, he received just a two-star rating from both Rivals.com and Scout.com as a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School, which was known for its highly regarded academic reputation, and not its sports program.
In fact, when Clarke did accept a scholarship to WVU, he was the school’s first football player to play for a BCS college since Hall of Fame tailback Curtis Martin (New England Patriots and New York Jets) signed on to become a University of Pittsburgh Panther in 1991.
Clarke actually had better success as a tight end and outside linebacker during his prep days, converting to the defensive line once he arrived at West Virginia. At Allderdice High, he was named a Pittsburgh North-South All-Star and twice earned Tribune Review All-City League on both offense and defense. He led his team to the city championship during his junior season and was selected to the Scout.com Pennsylvania Top 40 unit. He also excelled in basketball, as the team compiled a 20-6 record with Clarke averaging 16.0 points per game as a senior.
With four seasons of prep football under his belt, Clarke was hoping to play as a true freshman, but during the summer prior to the 2009 season, his body began to fill out and the coaches used that season as an opportunity to convert him to the defensive line as a member of the scout team.
Clarke saw minimal action at weak-side defensive end in 2010, as an ankle injury vs. Marshall confined him to just four games, recording one solo tackle. He took over weak-side end chores in eleven of the thirteen games he played in during his sophomore season. He responded to the starting opportunity by posting 34 tackles with two sacks and five stops-for-loss.
In their first season in the new league, Clarke received All-Big Twelve Conference honor-able mention in 2012. The weak-side end delivered 26 tackles, 6.5 behind the line of scrimmage, as three of his four quarterback pressures led to interceptions or pass incompletions.
Clarke had his finest college season during his final campaign. With a new defensive scheme, he lined up at strong-side tackle in 2013, earning All-American Super Sleeper Team and All-Big Twelve first-team honors. He ranked third in the conference with a team-high seventeen stops for losses of 77 yards and paced the Mountaineers with six sacks, ranking sixth in the Big Twelve in that category. He also posted a career-high 49 tackles and generated five QB pressures.
Clarke started 34-of-41 games at West Virginia – twenty-two at weak-side defensive end and twelve at strong-side tackle…Recorded 110 tackles (68 solos) with 9.5 sacks for minus 65 yards, 28.5 stops for losses of 118 yards, nine quarterback pressures, seven pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery…School Career-Record Results…With 28.5 stops-for-loss, Clarke moved into seventh place on the WVU all-time list behind Grant Wiley (47.5; 2000-03), Julian Miller (42.5; 2008-11), James Davis (40.0; 1999-2002), Kyle Kayden (39.0; 1998-2001), David Upchurch (35.0; 1999-2002) and Mike Lorello (31.5; 2002-05)…School Season-Record Results…Clarke’s 17.0 tackles-for-loss as a senior rank third on the school annual record list behind Kyle Kayden (18.0 in 2001) and Johnny Dingle (19.0 in 2007).
Clarke earned All-American Super Sleeper Team and All-Big Twelve Conference first-team recognition from The NFL Draft Report and was a second-team All-Big Twelve choice by the league’s coaches and the Associated Press…Started all twelve games at strong-side defensive tackle, leading the team while ranking third in the league with a career-high 17.0 stops for losses of 77 yards, which rank as the third-best season performance by a Mountaineer…Led the team and tied for sixth in the conference with a career-high six sacks for minus 44 yards, adding five quarterback pressures with three pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble…His 49 tackles (36 solos) were a career-best and ranked fifth on the team…In his first assignment at his new position, Clarke responded with five tackles, including one for a loss vs. William & Mary, adding 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage in the Oklahoma clash…Recorded his first sack for the year, a 6-yarder, vs. Georgia State and was in on three solo tackles, two that were sacks for minus 16 yards vs. Maryland…Posted six hits and batted down two passes at the line vs. Oklahoma State, followed by four stops, including one for an 8-yard loss vs. Baylor…Totaled two stops-for-loss vs. Kansas State and caused a fumble on a 5-yard sack, producing 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage among his four tackles in the Texas Christian game…Added a 9-yard sack with five tackles vs. Texas and had a career-high ten tackles that included two stops for minus 8 yards vs. Kansas…Closed out his career with a sack, 2.5 stops-for-loss and four tackles vs. Iowa State.
The three-time Iron Mountaineer Award winner started eleven games at weak-side defensive end, as he registered 26 tackles (13 solos) with 1.5 sacks and 6.5 stops for losses of 16 yards, earning All-Big Twelve Conference honorable mention…Also had four quarterback pressures and three pass deflections…Opened the season with a pair of QB pressures, as he deflected a pass and had three hits, including one for a loss in the Marshall contest…Made five solo tackles, including one for a loss vs. Baylor and had an 8-yard sack, two stops behind the line of scrimmage, a pressure, pass break-up and two tackles vs. Oklahoma State…Followed with two stops for minus 5 yards and three tackles vs. Oklahoma.
Clarke started eleven contests at weak-side defensive end, recording 34 tackles (19 solos) that included two sacks for minus 16 yards, five stops for losses of 25 yards and a pass deflection…Posted a season-high nine total tackles at South Florida, including eight unassisted and one tackle for loss…Finished with four total tackles vs. Pittsburgh that included two solo stops…Registered his first career sack and had two tackles at Rutgers, as he also tied for a team high with one tackle for loss…Made three tackles vs. Connecticut and a team-high one pass breakup (first of his career)…Was in on three total tackles and assisted on a tackle for loss vs. Louisiana State…In the Marshall game, he registered four tackles….Had his second sack for the year when he brought down Tajh Boyd in the Orange Bowl vs. Clemson.
Clarke’s first varsity season was limited to four games after he suffered a severe ankle sprain vs. Marshall…His only tackle came in his debut vs. Coastal Carolina.
Clarke spent the season as a red-shirt performer on the scout team, as he was converted to the defensive line from linebacker.
2010 Season…A severe ankle sprain in WVU’s second game, vs. Marshall, would sideline Clarke for the next nine contests before he returned for the team’s final two games. “It was late in the third quarter,” Clarke explained about his injury in the Thundering Herd clash. “I was rushing up the field and I went to go inside and my foot got stuck. I tried to move out but I ended up getting caught up with another guy and that’s what happened.”
2012 Season…Clarke suffered an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss most of the Texas game and the entire Texas Tech contest.
4.77 in the 40-yard dash…1.69 10-yard dash…2.81 20-yard dash…4.57 20-yard shuttle…
7.26 three-cone drill…32-inch vertical jump…9’-4” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times…34 5/8-inch arm length…9 7/8-inch hands…81 ¼-inch wingspan.
Clarke attended Taylor Allderdice (Pittsburgh, Pa.) High School, playing football for head coach Don Schmidt…Received just a two-star rating from both Rivals.com and Scout.com as a senior…Competed as a tight end and outside linebacker…Named a Pittsburgh North-South All-Star and twice earned Tribune Review All-City League on both offense and defense…Led his team to the city championship during his junior season and was selected to the Scout.com Pennsylvania Top 40 unit…Also excelled in basketball, as the team compiled a 20-6 record with Clarke averaging 16.0 points per game as a senior.
Clarke is majoring in Criminology and the three-time Iron Mountaineer Award winner was also named to the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and Big Twelve Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll…The Taylor Allderice High prospect was the first player from that school to accept a football scholarship from a BCS major college since since Hall of Fame tailback Curtis Martin (New England Patriots and New York Jets) signed on to become a University of Pittsburgh Panther in 1991…Son of Beverly and William Clarke…
Father letter in basketball at Duquesne in 1979…Born 5/04/91…Resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.