As confirmed today by the OC Register’s Joey Kaufman, freshman tight end Chris Clark is not enrolled at UCLA and has left the football program. This follows a week of rumors, heightened when Clark did not accompany the team to Las Vegas last Saturday.
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He got off to a rough start: sidelined by mono, getting off on the wrong foot with the coaching staff, and seeing limited playing time (and no targets) during week 1 against UVA. The last straw may have been that Clark was AWOL from practice last week until a coach went to his dorm to wake him up. Everyone appears to be citing homesickness as the root cause.
For now, the tight end position appears to be covered by overlapping hybrids: Thomas Duarte as a slot receiver/Y back, and Nate Iese as a fullback/H back. Iese in particular had a good night against UNLV, with three catches for 30 yards. Both players are juniors, however, so Clark’s departure makes TE an area of recruiting need.
Sep 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UCLA Bruins full back Nate Iese (32) catches the ball against the UNLV Rebels during the second quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
The Bruins have already secured the commitment of three-star tight end Jordan Wilson out of Nashville. At 6’5″ and 210 lbs., Wilson projects as a Y receiver in the mold of Joseph Fauria, which is encouraging. Jim Mora’s staff is also targeting four-star tight end Devin Asiasi of De La Salle. At 6’4″ and 265 lbs., Asiasi is a more traditional tight end, the role that Clark had been brought in to fill. UCLA is competing with Alabama, Oregon, Washington, and USC for Asiasi.
Recruiting is Weird
What interests me most is the very real yet very ephemeral nature of recruiting successes. The cold reality is that you need talent to succeed, and good recruiting classes tend to yield good talent. But so much of college football is based on reputation, from recruiting pitches to polls, and highly ranked recruiting classes build a program’s reputation. So people will remember that UCLA had a top 10 class, even though, now, Cordell Broadus and Clark never contributed to the team in a real way. That ranking isn’t real but still has real impact.
Even more detached from reality is ‘winning’ signing day. In 2o15 UCLA was waiting on a number of recruits who wouldn’t commit until signing day, whereas a number of coaches tend to amass commitments earlier on in the process. As a result, these other schools can sign well-regarded classes but still miss out on the buzz of having high-profile announcements go their way on the one day that the casual fan is paying attention to recruiting. So much of UCLA’s success last February was snagging some big commits at the last minute: Clark, Broadus, Soso Jamabo, and Roquan Smith. Never mind that three of those four commitments fell through within the last seven months; that image of UCLA cleaning up on signing day endures, boosting our reputation for preseason polls and in the next round of recruiting.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. Recruiting is a weird beast.
Also, I should add that I don’t blame Clark, or any 17/18-year-old, for changing his mind. I can’t imagine that I would have been much more reliable and sure of myself making huge life decisions in the public eye at that age. I shouldn’t have to add this, but just in case: don’t harass recruits or players on twitter. Wish him well in silence, and let him be.