Louisville CB Kei’trel Clark Continues To Dominate On Day 3 Of Shrine Bowl Week

Louisville cornerback Kei’trel Clark has consistently turned heads at the East-West Shrine Bowl Practice Week, establishing himself as the All-Star games top defensive back with a dominant performance on Day 3. Equipped with the talent and versatility to dominate from both the slot and on the boundary, Clark has shown to be a high-IQ player, capable of impacting the game and creating splash plays in a variety of ways, whether as a tackler, or in various coverage assignments.

Despite lacking ideal size, the two-time All-ACC selection wins in press coverage with patient footwork, cutting off receivers with his feet before getting into their airspace and imposing them with physical hand usage. He does a great job of varying his approach at the line of scrimmage, capable of using a soft-shoe press, jump jam, and off-hand jam, keeping receivers guessing from snap to snap.

On the pair of reps below, Clark first shows patient technique at the line, matching the receivers release with his feet to stay on square and on top before engaging a two-hand jam, and forcing the receiver wide with a physicality. On the next rep, Clark shows a smooth kick step to match the receivers wide release, cutting the receiver off to remain on top, once again forcing the receiver wide with a physical two handed jam. This variance in his press technique makes it difficult for receivers to carve an effective plan of attack, keeping Clark consistently one step ahead in the chess game of winning at the line of scrimmage.

Clark didn’t slow down in 1v1s, grabbing his first interception of the week on a textbook rep from press coverage. Matching the receiver in press coverage from a tight split, Clark takes inside leverage pre-snap, using inch technique to give ground and stay square at the snap before kick stepping and engaging a powerful off-hand jam to force the receiver wide.

Squeezing the receiver from the hashes all the way outside the numbers, Clark stays in phase, beginning to lean and locate at the 10-yard line before high-pointing the football for an impressive interception. Clark plays with high level confidence and trusts his ball skills to generate splash plays when playing from in phase.

Moving into the first team pass session, Clark picked up right where he left off, tracking Wake Forest receiver A.T. Perry across the field on a dig route, closing from out of phase and arriving at the catch point to secure the pass breakup. Despite allowing separation to the large framed receiver at the top of the route, Clark does a great job of driving on the receiver with proper eye-discipline, and playing the catch point with a well-timed, well-placed, and violent swipe to force an incompletion.

The two most important traits of elite defensive back play, in my opinion, are being able to consistently secure easy takeaway opportunities (tips, overthrows, etc..) and being able to remain calm and cleanly play the football from out of phase. Receivers at the game’s highest levels will always be good enough to separate from even the greatest defensive backs, making high-level play from out of phase, as seen here from Clark, an extremely encouraging rep.

Moving into the team session, Clark began to showcase his versatility, making multiple plays from the slot. On the first rep, below, Clark, working as the flat defender in a Cover 3 scheme, diagnoses screen pre-snap, timing the snap to fly downhill, easily defeating the block and delivering a physical stick for the TFL. Clark, who played increased snaps in the box this past season at Louisville, takes pride in tackling, and punishes receivers with physicality whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Later in the team period, once again operating in the slot, Clark works from press man coverage on the point man in a stack, kick-stepping to match an outside release while staying square. As the receiver pivots to break back inside, Clark cuts him off, out-muscling the receiver to jump the route, leaping to tip the ball in the air, where it would be secured by his teammate for an interception. Clark dominated receivers with his superior quickness and physicality all day, playing a hand in a pair of takeaways in the process.

Exiting Day 3, I can confidently say that Kei’trel Clark, who I initially had as one of my five cornerbacks to watch, is not only the best cornerback, but the best defensive back at the East-West Shrine Bowl. While it’s too early to project where he might wind up hearing his name called on draft day, any team that drafts him could be getting an immediate plug and play sub-package player with positional versatility, a high-football IQ, and the necessary physicality to impact the game in multiple facets, including special teams.

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