Beneath the shadow of their future home, a pair of Buckeye quarterback commitments stood front and center during Monday night's Elite 11 regional final in at Ohio State.
Joe Burrow, a 2015 commitment, and Danny Clark, Ohio State's 2017 verbal pledge, showed why they will be a big part of the foreseeable future for Ohio State. While neither of them were perfect, each performed well in a highly-scrutinized and fast-paced environment.
This was my first time seeing Burrow live, and I've tried hard to not let my initial opinion be skewed by video game-esque highlights and junior year statistics. As I happened upon Burrow, I was struck by his size: he's a legit 6-foot-4 and a frame that could easily hold up to 225-230 pounds by the time he gets to Ohio State.
The Plains, Ohio checked in with just a smidge over 3000 residents in the 2010 census, and Burrow's demeanor is absolutely that of a "small town" kid. He's quiet and unassuming but he's also got a reserved confidence that is evident from talking with him. The son of a coach, Burrow is football savvy even if right now he's not "technically" perfect. There were a number of observers who thought he appeared "tight" at the onset of the Elite 11, which was understandable considering the dramatic turn of events for his recruitment in the last ten days.
As the camp progressed Burrow appeared significantly more comfortable and it played out in his performance. His throwing motion shortened, his velocity improved and his accuracy — especially on seam routes and the long ball in general — went from a question mark to a strength. When you watch Burrow, you can see a player much more in the Alex Smith mold than Braxton Miller, and if he turns out as good as either, that's a win for Ohio State. In my mind, Burrow handled the situation about as well as he could considering the significant pressure he had to be feeling. I'd like to see him come out of his shell a bit personality-wise, but that will come over time as he gets used to his newfound role as the leader of the Buckeyes 2015 class. He's a confident kid, and as things move along people will see much more of that shining through from Burrow.
In case you missed it last night, here's a pretty in-depth interview with Burrow.
Before I get too far into any thoughts on Clark, let me say that he comes into a camp of this stature with absolutely zero to gain, and he knows it. Clark camped during this Elite 11 knowing that he had no chance to earn an invitation to The Opening (he's too young) and without a need for the exposure others show up searching for. He's a one-million-percent-Buckeye and if he never gets another scholarship offer (Ohio Sate is still his only offer) he won't care.
Clark showed up at the Elite 11 to get better as a quarterback, and it's an experience he told 11W he was happy he went through. His sheer physicality is the first thing about him that gets noticed, but when the whistle blows he's an aggressive, take-charge leader that is energetic, focused and intense. I didn't see a throw from Clark — good or bad — that didn't end with him asking for critique from the E11 coaches. His physical maturity brings with it a certain expectation of refinement in his craft, because people forget he's still not entered his sophomore year in high school, but he handles it without a problem. As a person, Clark is composed and built to handle the pressure, and by the time he gets to Ohio State, his exposure to mass insanity as a Massillon Tiger, will have served him exceptionally well.
At camps like the Elite 11, players like Clark are a bit of a disadvantage because he's a left-hander, and unfortunately that slowed him down a bit through most of the camp. The entire camp setting is geared towards "rolling right," and Clark's offense certainly will flip on its head towards his strong side.
Clark's strength right now is his strength. He's a big kid and he's got a very strong arm without much effort. He's footwork is better than a lot of quarterbacks who've been playing the position much longer than he has and he's got a compact release. His only question mark right now is accuracy, but as he continues to get more and more reps he's almost certain to get that corrected. Clark is a tireless worker and one thing that really stood out was his leadership style: he's vocal and loud; he wants to be the guy his teammates turn to.
Oh yeah, he's got three years of high school left.