Early on Tuesday morning, Danny Clark, a 3-star quarterback prospect from Akron’s Archbishop Hoban High School, decommitted from Ohio State after being committed to the Buckeyes for nearly three years. A 6-foot-4, 223-pound left-hander, Clark began his high school career at Massillon’s Washington High School and was offered by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and former offensive coordinator Tom Herman on Dec. 13, 2013. He committed the same day.
Since his verbal, Clark has been an instrumental cog in helping Ohio State develop and maintain relationships with a number of players who would eventually commit to being his teammate. He’s been a key part of the Buckeyes’ top-ranked recruiting class since the beginning but Tuesday, with a carefully worded, heartfelt letter, he re-opened his recruitment.
Out of respect for coaches on OSU staff, I will not be answering any questions on this topic. Ever… pic.twitter.com/KCUR4ZzcaA
— 10 Weeks (@DClarkQB) September 27, 2016
The particulars of Clark’s recruitment highlight a number of issues that have become commonplace in the world of recruiting in the last few years. Ohio State’s biggest mistake in this situation was one that could’ve easily been avoided and one that Urban Meyer’s staff likely won’t make again: offering a quarterback, especially one in-state who you know will commit immediately, as a freshman in high school is way too early. It’s something that Meyer addressed, indirectly, during a Monday press conference ironically, the sped-up nature of the recruiting calendar.
“I keep hearing about this early signing period, early access, and let’s move everything up and it’s, I still can’t believe we’re having this conversation,” Meyer said. “So, we absolutely oppose that. I hear the reasoning is because there’s so many decommitments. What the hell does that mean? So because 18-year-olds, excuse me 17-year-olds are decommitting, let’s give them a legal document so they can’t decommit? That’s not very smart. Young people have a right to choose where they want to go to school. Period. Let them decommit a hundred times. They’re 17-year-old’s, that’s why they’re called 17-year-olds.
“So I don’t understand whether it’s lazy, whether it’s, you know, I don’t understand why this big push. Now they want to move junior year, like have official visits in their junior year. There’s some kids that don’t even have ACT scores (at that point). They’re bodies are gaining 18 pounds. Why not move it back to their sophomore year. It’s bizarre. You’re going to see more transfers and more mistakes made in recruiting than ever if they keep pushing this thing up.”
The Buckeyes made a mistake. Not because Clark isn’t good enough or because he may not have developed his game at the rate they’d expected him to, but because there are few times when a 14-year-old is a finished product, or even close to it.
How did it happen?
The decommitment, the story around it, really began in January when Ohio State — which once believed Clark would be the only quarterback in its 2017 class — realized it would need to look into adding a second. After reviewing a few options, the Buckeyes coaching staff settled in on a few potential targets including IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) quarterback Kellen Mond, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) star Tate Martell and longtime TCU commitment Shawn Robinson from DeSoto, Texas. Mond and Martell each expressed sincere interest to the Ohio State staff and things were turned up in those pursuits.
Martell made a late March visit to Ohio State, the same day it was reported that Danny Clark was visiting Michigan State with teammates, while Mond visited Ohio State in April for the Buckeyes’ spring game. However, it was Clark’s absence during the Scarlet and Gray game that turned the most heads.
As the spring turned to summer and the Buckeyes settled on Martell as the preferred complement to Clark, things became murkier with his commitment. The Hoban quarterback, who had made a living being on campus with the Buckeyes, stayed low-key throughout the Ohio State camp season, especially after Martell committed to join Ohio State on June 12.
Ohio State’s coaching staff has been, and continued to be, upfront with Clark about the situation. They let him know they were adding another quarterback because they felt Martell was a better option for their offensive plan in the future, which Clark himself alluded to in his decommitment.
At Friday Night Lights in late July, Clark went to Ohio Stadium and competed against Martell — and by most accounts that night was “better” in that setting — but things between the Buckeyes and Clark didn’t change. Martell was the better fit and would be given the first shot to be “the man” in the 2017 class.
Clark’s position in Ohio State’s future has not changed since the decision to recruit another quarterback. If he had decided he wanted to stick with the Buckeyes, he would have been able to do so, though speculation about being asked to grayshirt and delay his enrollment to make that happen, persists.
The bottom line, and one that will certainly be refuted by people trying to push an agenda, is that this decommitment was a Clark decision, not an Ohio State decision.
What’s next for Clark?
Since Friday Night Lights, Clark had quietly begun looking at other potential fits for himself, according to multiple sources. He’d chosen to not visit Ohio State for either of their home games this season and, in recent weeks as schools like Kentucky, Indiana and Rutgers have emerged as real options, Clark and his family have decided to take a step back and re-examine the situation for an offense that will be a better fit.
Clark is an incredibly hard-working and talented football player. He’s a relentless worker and a leader in his locker room at Hoban and that will carry him a long, long way toward a career at the next level. There’s no doubt in my mind that wherever he ends up, he’ll push the players around him — and in front of him on the depth chart — to be better. He and his family had to make a difficult choice and made one that should give them a better opportunity to find playing time in college.
Right now, I think Kentucky has to be considered the leader in the clubhouse, but there are almost certainly going to be new teams that pop up and take a look at him now that he’s officially back on the market. His high school coaches love him and respect his work ethic and that alone will start many conversations with colleges looking for their next quarterback.