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Clark speaks on rise to starting RG

Clark speaks on rise to starting RG

Stefan Adams
Freshman OL Jakai Clark was originally recruited by the previous Miami staff as a center, the position he exclusively played in high school. However, after the UM offensive line gave up 10 sacks in the opener against UF, the coaching staff inserted him in the starting lineup at right guard for the past two games and Clark has fared pretty well thus far; Clark has shown his chops as a run blocker and has only given up one sack.

“Assignment-wise it’s not really that much different. But in pass sets, it’s kind of different,” Clark said of the differences between guard and center. “The D-Linemen get on you kind of quick, not as quick as center, but you don’t have as much time as tackle. It’s kind of in-between.”

On the Monday ahead of the UNC game, OL coach Butch Barry informed Clark that he would be getting the start against the Tar Heels. Although he was nervous at first, Clark felt he eventually settled in to play like he knew he could.

“After that first half of the Carolina game, after I calmed down a little bit, I realized the game is just like practice, just against someone that is not on your team. Simple as that,” Clark said. “After the first half, it was `Okay, this is practice.’ I went ahead and did what I had to do.”

Clark is joined on the starting OL by his 2019 classmate in Zion Nelson, who has been the 1st team LT, and Clark says the two help each other out on and off the field.

"We kind of work together in terms of getting caught up on stuff," Clark said.

Like Nelson, Clark was an unheralded recruit that didn’t get much attention from Miami until the end of the recruiting cycle. That has made his rise to Miami’s starting OL in his first year that much more unlikely, but Clark feels his early success is a testament to his work ethic.

“I was just going into practice, doing what I have to do,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t say I came in expecting to start, but I’m just going about my business, grinding every day. Guys around me did a great job catching me up to college speed.”

How has the transition been to the college game with bigger, faster, and stronger linemen?

“When you go against somebody that’s a lot older than you, a lot of the things you used to do don’t really work as much,” Clark said. “But if you just do your same technique as if it’s practice, everything is going to work out fine.”
 

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