#92 Malik Clark
Class: RS Junior
Position: Defensive Line
Hometown: Milledgeville, GA
Thoughts: One of the very big question marks for me in 2021 is who slides in at nose tackle and replaces the production we saw from Jared Goldwire? I already touched on a couple potential candidates already (Dezmond Tell/Jared Dawson) and have another big prospect coming up shortly (J. Turner) but many pointed to Clark as the one to fill that spot heading into the fall. I’ll continue to shout this from the lookout point in Iroquois Park until the whole city hears me, but nose tackle is one of the most important and under appreciated positions on the field. Big but fast, strong but light-footed, heavy on film but live in the gym…it aint easy, and finding that guy is key to a successful defense. No offense to those in the past but Louisville hasn’t found “that guy” since Coach Brown arrived. They had talented guys playing that spot, but nobody really screamed “nose tackle” to me yet.
Clark has been around the program for awhile and has seen reps at a few different positions on the line since arriving from Baldwin High back in 2016 (Heisman!). Clark has good size and I think he can be a nice piece in the middle if he wins out the job. He played in eight games last year and even got a start at nose against Boston College, collecting five tackles in that game alone. My concerns at this spot, not just with Clark, are awareness and strength. Some of these ACC centers are big and can move weight. Take this as an example, Clark (92) is lined up in the middle at the 8 yd line, a couple yards north of the bottom hash. By the time the ball carrier gets to the LOS he is running in the exact spot Clark was lined up, but Clark has been pushed 3-4 yards to his left basically one on one with the center. That just can’t happen consistently for you to have a shot at stopping the run
Now, to be fair, later in that game Clark made a great play where he was taken out of the play on a release on the line but instead of jogging it out, he ran down the ball carrier a full 27 yards downfield to make the tackle. Remember when I said big but fast…this is where that comes into play
Then, on literally the next play from scrimmage Clark avoids getting pushed out of the play, holds his ground, and then peels off the blocker to make the tackle after just a two yard gain
So we see the concerning areas, but we also seem some highlights of what he can do at times. The challenge specifically at that position is keeping your motor at 100% every play, and if you can do that at a high level, you’re likely playing on Sundays. If I had to guess I’d say we see a fair share of Clark, Turner, and Tell this year with a mix of some other younger guys. I hope the maturity of Clark (the first non-freshman on the countdown this year) translates to the new guys and we can build some depth in the middle.
Been quite a ride for Louisville football since May of 2017, (I think his early recruiting photos had Grantham in them) but glad to see Malik stick around to be a contributor consistently for a number of seasons. Go do work, MC.