During his time in Morgantown, DE Will Clarke accomplished something that no other Mountaineer has before, and it is something that will help him as he climbs draft boards and tries to earn a job in the NFL next season.
Clarke came to WVU as a 6'6″ 240 lbs freshman in 2009 where he redshirted his first year. He spent significant time in the weight room and filled out to 273 lbs and grew one inch. It was that work with the strength coaches and in the weight room that earned him the Iron Mountaineer Award three times becoming the only player to do so. The award is given to the player who was the best all-around conditioned athlete. When you think of a few of Clarke's teammates during his career - Austin, Bailey and Irvin to name a few - winning that particular award stands out and is a testament to his work ethic.
That work ethic will help him at the next level. His draft stock began to climb after he stood out during the week of the Shrine Bowl which he parlayed into an invite to the Senior Bowl where was the best defensive lineman on either roster. Then he had good showings at the NFL Combine and WVU's Pro Day. He piled up 111 tackles, 29 tackles for losses and 9 1/2 sacks during his college career.
His strengths are his size, speed and aforementioned work ethic. His work during the offseason conditioning program allowed his contributions to increase every season. He has a quick burst off the line and has good range to pursue ball carriers. He finished second in the Big 12 last season in tackles for loss with 17. He uses his reach to disrupt passing lanes, knocking down seven passes last year. He's smart and coachable and grew into a leader.
His weaknesses are that he needs to develop more moves to shed blocks and use his hips better to turn the corner to get to quarterbacks. He sometimes plays too tall. The high center of gravity can allow blockers to move him off his spot.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports compares Clarke to Chandler Jones, saying that:
Jones has quickly developed into one of the league's better young pass rushers as his 11.5 sacks in 2013 can attest. Think of Clarke as a poor man's version, whose sack total will probably hover close to half of Jones' in a given year once he acclimates to the NFL. Scouts will love Clarke's length and dedication, however, two traits which have helped Jones become successful so quickly.
His length, strength and work ethic will allow him to fit in either the 4-3 or 3-4 defenses as a DE.
His draft stock shot up from a late-round to fringe draft pick at the end of his senior season to a 3rd or 4th round pick at the time of this writing. His athleticism and size makes him seen as a project as he still has some unrefined skills. Early in his career, he would likely be an occasional contributor, but if he gets drafted as high as the projections are now, his future team will groom him to be a starter within a couple of seasons.
We will update this profile on Clarke as we hear more about his travels leading up to and after the NFL Draft.