Arguably the top uncommitted high school quarterback recruit in the country will be on the University of Kentucky’s campus for an official visit this weekend, the latest development in a recruitment that appeared to be finished years ago.
Danny Clark — a 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior from Akron, Ohio — originally committed to Ohio State shortly after his freshman season of high school. It seemed like a perfect match at the time. The Buckeyes were getting one of the most talented young quarterback prospects in the country. Clark would get to play for the school he grew up rooting for.
In the nearly three years since that commitment, Clark got a huge Ohio State tattoo on his throwing arm — he’s a lefty — and emerged as the vocal leader of the Buckeyes’ 2017 recruiting class.
Over the summer, everything changed.
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Ohio State took a commitment from Tate Martell, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2017 and considered to be a much better fit for Coach Urban Meyer’s offense than the pro-style Clark.
Last week, Clark announced that he was no longer committed to the Buckeyes.
“Once Ohio State took Tate Martell, it was obvious that there had to be some shuffling around at the quarterback position,” said Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt. “Danny saw the writing on the wall that it probably was not going to be the best situation for him. So it didn’t surprise me, but obviously it was an interesting situation considering how diehard of an Ohio State fan he has always been.”
Ohio State’s loss could be Kentucky’s gain.
Kentucky is certainly the school that has the most buzz around Danny’s recruitment. ... There’s no doubt UK has been the team most talked about.
Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com analyst
Most college recruiters never gave Clark a second look after he committed to the Buckeyes so early in the process. Why spend time and resources recruiting a kid who is already committed to his dream school and showing no signs of indecision?
One of the few who stayed in touch was UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, who extended a scholarship offer to Clark during his sophomore year and continued to build a relationship with the player and his family.
Now, the Wildcats are considered the new favorite in Clark’s recruitment.
“Kentucky is certainly the school that has the most buzz around Danny’s recruitment in the wake of the Ohio State decommitment,” Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader. “There’s no doubt UK has been the team most talked about.”
Class of 2017 quarterback rankings from Rivals.com
Clark has declined to discuss his decommitment from Ohio State, but Saturday’s visit to Lexington will be his first trip since he opened his recruitment. No other school has yet emerged as a threat to Kentucky’s front-runner status. Most of the top programs already have a quarterback picked out for 2017.
The timing is perfect for the Wildcats, who are looking to add a QB after the summer decommitment of Mac Jones, who flipped to Alabama. UK is still monitoring Jones’ recruitment, but it seems unlikely he’d flip back to the Cats.
Kentucky also has a commitment from Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood, who is considered a dual-threat quarterback and — while UK’s coaches have promised him a chance to earn playing time at QB — could end up at another position in college.
Clark — ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 17 pro-style QB in the country — offers a different skill set.
“He’s always been known for being a big quarterback with a big arm,” Helmholdt said. “He can hit all points on the field. And he has one of the biggest arms in this entire 2017 recruiting class.
“He can take a hit in the pocket. He can fall forward and pick up some yards. But he’s not a dynamic dual-threat athlete. He’s definitely more of a drop-back, sit in the pocket, distribute the football type of quarterback.”
Clark’s weakness has been his inconsistency.
Helmholdt said Clark sometimes struggles putting the ball where he wants it to go and compared his status at this stage in his career to Notre Dame junior DeShone Kizer, who had similar problems as a high school player in Ohio.
Kizer has completed 63 percent of his passes this season for 14 touchdowns, four interceptions and 1,567 yards in five games. Clark is showing improvement, too.
“We’ve already seen him make strides in his consistency and his accuracy,” Helmholdt said. “He had a big, wind-up delivery, and shortening that delivery has given him greater consistency and he hasn’t lost hardly any arm strength.
“So, absolutely he can work through it.”
It’s unclear how close Clark is to another commitment, but the familiarity with Marrow and timing of this weekend’s visit are positives for the Cats.
Adding a personality like Clark could also help UK attract other high-profile targets in the final months of the 2017 recruiting cycle.
“He’s always been a very outgoing kid,” Helmholdt said. “So he has that combination of the charisma and confidence that makes you successful at the quarterback position. … Talking to him is unlike talking to most high school kids. He is certainly mature beyond his years.”