2023 NFL Draft

Interview: DL Jerrod Clark Said It Was ‘Nerve Wracking’ Having Mike Tomlin Mentor Him At Senior Bowl

Last week Wednesday, I had the opportunity to interview Coastal Carolina DL Jerrod Clark after practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium for the Senior Bowl. Clark had been a player I had briefly studied prior to going down to Mobile, having the size and body type (6’3 1/2”, 343lb, 33 7/8” arm) you look for at the nose tackle position. Pittsburgh needs help along the trenches, needing to add starters and depth to both DE and NT with Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, and Tyson Alualu scheduled to hit free agency. Clark isn’t as well-known of a prospect compared to several other DL in this class, but he fits the bill as a run stuffer who also had 3.5 sacks in 2022.

I asked Clark what his focus was coming down here to Mobile in what will likely be the biggest job interview of his life. Clark responded that he mainly wants to take things one day at a time and improve his game in-front of scouts, showing them the player he can be.

“I’m just trying to slow down where I’m not as anxious,” Clark said. “I’m not focused on everything else. I’m just trying to take attack one play at a time and that’s really what I’m trying to focus on. Focus on one play at a time and dominate that one play and then focus on the next one and then try to have a quick memory too. Just forget about the bad play. Go on to the next one. So, just try not to let bad plays stack against each other.”

Clark is truly a student of the game, making sure he learns as much as he can from the coaching staff as he refines his game to become a more well-rounded player. For being over 340lb, Clark showed some fluidity and mobility of a player 20-30lb less than his listed weight. Still, Clark’s bread and butter is his size and strength, collapsing the pocket and walking back opposing OL with brute force to stuff the run or pressure the passer.

“Really just playing more vertical instead of like stepping lateral,” Clark said regarding coach’s advice to him during the practices.” Really just stepping more vertical when I’m punching the man in front of me and just creating that kind of force in the middle of the offense line and just play more dominant in the middle.”

Clark was rotated often during practice sessions, even after he had a nice pass deflection at the LOS. While he recognizes he projects primarily as a run stuffer at the next level due to his measurables and play strength, he wants to prove to coaches he can be a viable pass rusher as well.

“I’m just trying to show that I can be on the field for more than just two plays at a time,” Clark said. “I can be on for three, four… go on and on for a series of plays. Just trying to showcase out here whenever the opportunity comes. I already put on film that I could bull rush, so I’ve been trying to use different moves trying to see what I can do and I’m really just testing it out.”

I then asked Clark what it was like to have Steelers HC Mike Tomlin on the field as he closely watched the OL/DL 1-on-1 sessions both days he was in attendance as well as spending the majority of his first day of practice watching the defensive line drills with GM Omar Khan.

“Man, it’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Clark answered. “You just don’t know, like you just in the back of your mind, like it’s a head coach watching. You got to put on a good rep and just constantly worrying about is this rep good or can I do much better? I know yesterday he was telling me just be better at my hands.”

Tomlin was crowding the OL/DL 1-on-1 sessions the first two days of practice, showing no concerns of getting right up on the players as he consistently had conversations with several of the prospects. Clark was appreciative of the tips Tomlin gave him on Day 1 and would laud the opportunity to be able to call Tomlin his head coach at the next level.

“I met him at the former interviews and then I talked to him in person yesterday, just after the one-on-ones,” Clark said regarding Tomlin. “He’s just telling me about being better at my hands and playing more consistently. Just put in more consistent effort. Hey, man, listen. If they like me, I love it. I wouldn’t mind playing in Pittsburgh.”

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