The Rutgers football coaching staff had a quieter day than usual Wednesday on Traditional Signing Day, but wasted no time in getting the first good news about their 2021 class. The Scarlet Knights secured a verbal commitment from Alijah Clark from Camden) on Thursday:
Rutgers is one of seven power five conference schools (nine total) to offer Alijah per 247sports, including Miami (FL), Michigan, and Maryland. At 6’1” and 180 pounds, Clark is a high three-star prospect, the 10th best in New Jersey and 35th best cornerback nationally for the 2020 class according to the 247 composite which includes other sources.
Clark is listed by some sources as a cornerback, but others as an athlete. It’s immediately evident why as he also lines up at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. He looks like the fastest player on the field, but is still willing to fight to get off blocks and make tackles. He tracks the ball well on both sides of the ball and looks like he’s always under control no matter how much traffic is around him. He has quick feet and reacts to the ball quite well after the man he is covering makes a move. He’s a tremendously fluid athlete who remains balanced and can contort his body preventing opposing players from jamming, blocking, or attempting to tackle him. Finding guys who can legitimately play cornerback without worrying about their speed or size is quite difficult, but Clark definitely projects there today with no obvious limitations.
One area for improvement as a senior in 2020 and heading into his college career is improving his hands. Clark displays an above average catch radius for his height, but he will become even more lethal on offense and defense if he receives the ball smoother and can immediately transition into yards after the catch. This is nit picking, but he will need to tackle with more force at the college level to ensure he brings ball carriers down, whereas at the high school level might injure opponents if he truly popped opposing ball carriers. It also may take him some time to adjust to playing against big, strong receivers that you don’t see at the high school level with any regularity.
Clark is at worst a solid three-star prospect who will compete hard in practice and provide depth on both sides of the ball like Jordan Thomas began his career. Alijah most likely will be able to contribute on special teams as a redshirt freshman and perhaps even start if required on defense like Isaiah Wharton. Best case Alijah is a lockdown corner by his second year a la Logan Ryan.
I like the pickup because Rutgers has struggled to get their first commit until late spring in recent years. What I’ve read from coaches in the Camden area is that Clark will be a lightning rod, rallying other players to join the class. It also illustrates the South Jersey, particularly Camden connection that Rutgers hopes to have finally filled with Fran Brown on the coaching staff. On top of all this, Clark is a top ten player in the state and the Scarlet Knights need as much talent as they can get.
Clark is the first player in this class, who will not be eligible to officially sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI) until December 2020.
Check out some highlights:
Welcome to the banks Alijah!