Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 7 Brendon Clark, junior quarterback with a knee worry

Brendon Clark 2020
ACC Media
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1 ⅝, 212 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: A junior, Clark has four seasons of eligibility remaining, the universal pandemic eligibility waiver saving him from losing a year when he was not healthy enough to play but had also already burned his year of preservation as a freshman.
Depth Chart: Clark was passed by then-freshman Drew Pyne on the depth chart in 2020 when a worrisome knee turned Clark into only-an-emergency option. Pyne made the most of that opportunity and is now in competition with Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan to start for Notre Dame, leaving Clark no higher than third on the depth chart, if healthy enough to have even that designation.
Recruiting: Originally a Wake Forest commit, the consensus three-star prospect wavered when Cade McNamara de-committed from Notre Dame. In an example of the carousel that is college football … McNamara’s de-commitment (eventually signing with Michigan) spurred the Irish to give chase to Wisconsin commit Graham Mertz. After considering Notre Dame’s pursuit, Mertz stuck with the Badgers, and in due time, he took over the starting job in Madison, forcing Coan to transfer.

The No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the class, per rivals.com, Clark narrowed his post-Deacons decision to the Irish, Clemson and North Carolina.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Some shampoo and/or conditioner company needs to secure a sponsorship deal with Clark before preseason practices begin because if past years are any indication, his hair will warrant a little notice in August.

And then, a South Bend barber should be sure to earn the chance to clean up that look in September.

CAREER TO DATE
Clark played in three blowouts as a freshman and then took the field once in 2020, playing 37 snaps in total.

2019: 3 games; 1-for-1 for a 22-yard touchdown to Braden Lenzy, with five rushes for 33 yards.
2020: 1 game; 1-for-3 for 7 yards.

QUOTES
Clark tore an ACL in high school, and at some point early in the fall of 2020, that knee became “cranky.” That may sound trite, but it was the adjective provided by head coach Brian Kelly. After Clark had surgery on the knee in December, there was optimism, if not even reasonable expectations, that he would be 100 percent before preseason practices.

But per Kelly at a charity golf tournament the first week of June, that hope may need to be slightly tempered.

“I think there were some things that put him back a little bit,” Kelly said. “But the last I heard from him last week, he should be in a running program when he gets back.”

The next update should come from Kelly at his first preseason media session in exactly one week.

WHAT WAS SAID TWO YEARS AGO
It is not meant as an overt knock on Clark to say he ‘may never be Notre Dame’s quarterback of the future.’ It is rather a reflection of a consensus three-star being sandwiched between four-star passers in (Phil) Jurkovec and class of 2020 commit Drew Pyne (New Canaan High School; Conn.). For now, Clark can look at the current Irish starter for reason to believe future projections are made to be disproven.

“That ‘for now’ designation could go out the window in just a few months. If Book parlays a second impressive season into a leap to the NFL, then Clark could become 2020’s backup, the most popular player on in the public’s eye, always one snap away from taking every snap.

“In preparation for that, Clark’s scout team work in the interim should focus on developing the mechanics Jurkovec did not show in the spring. Book has shown the heights Notre Dame’s offense can reach simply by relying on a quarterback’s accuracy. Mimicking that should be Clark’s initial focus.”

2021 OUTLOOK
Get healthy.

That should be Clark’s only concern in 2021. A chronic knee issue can obviously be career-threatening, so a cautious preseason followed by stabilizing work through the fall will be best for all involved in the long run.

Clark can still help Notre Dame by providing a resource for the four quarterbacks in the room who have been a part of the program shorter than him, otherwise known as all the other quarterbacks in the room. Though he may not have much playing experience, Clark has spent the most time with Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, and helping bring along Coan, Pyne and early-enrolled freshmen Tyler Buchner and Ron Powlus III will be vital to Notre Dame’s success this fall.

DOWN THE ROAD
Clark’s chances of starting for the Irish seem slim at this point. Coan will lead in 2021 with Pyne close behind him, and then Pyne will face a strong challenge from Buchner in 2022. Clark would need to jump from injury concern to starter-caliber in one calendar year in order to change that calculus.

But he is known for having a strong arm, and learning from Rees and Kelly for a few years can have its benefits. If Clark cannot crack that Pyne-Buchner competition, a transfer elsewhere would not be a bad thing, but perhaps a chance at playing time.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 91 Joshua Bryan, incoming freshman kicker
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, freshman receiver, four-star prospect out of Georgia
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 62 Marshall guard Cain Madden transfers to Notre Dame, likely 2021 starter
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 55 Kahanu Kia, freshman linebacker, Hawaiian, LDS member
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center
No. 52 Bo Bauer, senior linebacker, #BeADog
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 47 Jason Onye, incoming and raw freshman defensive end
No. 44 Devin Aupiu, early-enrolled freshman defensive end
No. 44 Alex Peitsch and No. 65 Michael Vinson, Irish long snappers, both needed
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, fifth-year defensive tackle, eventual record-holder in games played
No. 40 Drew White, fifth-year linebacker, three-year starter
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, fifth-year kicker, using the pandemic exception
No. 35 Marist Liufau, junior Hawaiian linebacker
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, junior defensive end
No. 33 Shayne Simon, senior linebacker
No. 32 Prince Kollie, freshman linebacker, Butkus Award winner
No. 29 Matt Salerno, senior punt returner, walk-on
No. 29 Khari Gee, freshman safety, former LSU commit
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, senior cornerback, possible nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, junior linebacker
No. 26 Clarence Lewis, sophomore cornerback, second-year starter
No. 25 Philip Riley, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, speedy sophomore running back
No. 24 Jack Kiser, junior linebacker, onetime pandemic hero
No. 24 Audric Estime, freshman running back, former Michigan State commit, four-star
No. 23 Litchfield Ajavon, junior safety
No. 23 Kyren Williams, junior running back
No. 22 Logan Diggs, incoming freshman running back
No. 21 Lorenzo Styles, early-enrolled freshman receiver
No. 21 Caleb Offord, sophomore cornerback
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, senior running back, coming off an offseason with a smirch
No. 20 Justin Walters, early-enrolled freshman safety and likely early special teams contributor
No. 20 JoJo Johnson, freshman cornerback, former Cincinnati commit
No. 19 Jay Bramblett, junior punter
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, senior defensive end
No. 18 Joe Wilkins Jr., senior receiver, team favorite
No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, junior defensive end, coming back from a knee injury
No. 18 Chance Tucker, freshman cornerback
No. 17 Jack Coan, graduate quarterback, Wisconsin transfer
No. 17 Jordan Botelho, sophomore defensive end, full-speed at all times
No. 16 Deion Colzie, incoming freshman receiver with both speed and leaping height
No. 16 KJ Wallace, junior safety, possible starting nickel back
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 14 Kyle Hamilton, junior safety, preseason All-American, top 2022 draft prospect
No. 13 Paul Moala, senior linebacker coming off an Achilles injury
No. 13 Lawrence Keys, senior receiver
No. 12 Tyler Buchner, early-enrolled freshman quarterback, former four-star recruit
No. 12 DJ Brown, senior safety mired in a starting competition
No. 11 Ron Powlus III, early-enrolled freshman quarterback
No. 11 Ramon Henderson, sophomore cornerback with sprinter’s speed
No. 10 Drew Pyne, sophomore quarterback, likely No. 2
No. 10 Isaiah Pryor, graduate linebacker, 2020 Ohio State transfer