Clark heads Alcorn’s defense for 2001

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2001

Alcorn State University’s Howard Clark was a linebacker in every sense of the word last season. Playing behind a young defensive line, the junior collected 112 total tackles, second-best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and was a leader on the defense for ASU.

He shouldn’t be called on to make that many tackles in 2001 for the Braves, as the line is more experienced this year. But he’ll be there just in case.

&uot;I’m very sure I can match it,&uot; said Clark of his tackle total and overall performance.

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The Jefferson County High graduate is suiting up for his fourth year with the Braves. And he’s looking for this one to be a breakout year for the squad. Last year, ASU went 0-11. On Saturday, the Braves host Grambling State at 6:30 p.m.

&uot;We want to show the world that last season was a fluke,&uot; he said. &uot;We have a point to prove this year.&uot;

Clark thinks bringing in two new coaches and changes in the defense could be the key to making that point. Head coach Johnny Thomas hired Karl Morgan as defensive coordinator and Garry Lewis as defensive backs coach. They join defensive line coach Willie McGowan, who is now in his second year as a coach.

When Morgan and Lewis came in, they made a few changes with personnel and defensive packages, which Clark likes.

&uot;(Coach Morgan) just moved a few people around to make plays and utilize their talents,&uot; Clark said. He also added the Braves’ defense should be a more active one, with a few more blitzing schemes. Part of that is due to the defensive line’s improvement and a solid secondary that can hold receivers in check.

Morgan expects Clark to be a calming influence in the defensive huddle.

&uot;I think the experience level (is important),&uot; Morgan said. &uot;He can help with adjustments. He can be a coach on the field for us.&uot;

Clark has two things Morgan looks for in a linebacker: ability to cover sideline to sideline and knowing where everyone should be on the field. Morgan noted Clark should be a better player this year because a nagging shoulder injury is now gone.

&uot;I’d like him to do more,&uot; Morgan said, concerning what he wants out of Clark for this year. &uot;He can now reach his potential as a player without any hinderance.&uot;

Clark led the team team with 70 tackles as a starter at linebacker in 1999. Last year was a breakout year, as he was a second team All-SWAC selection. Forty-nine of his 112 tackles were solo tackles, with 11 going for a loss. He also notched seven sacks.

Clark said last season was tough on him and the team. But the Braves fought through all of the negative aspects of the season and built team unity.

&uot;One thing we learned was we came together as a team last year, going through hard times,&uot; he said. &uot;A lot of people gave up on us. We only had each other.&uot;

There’s a new hope, though, at ASU. &uot;Everybody’s got the same mentality we can (succeed) this year,&uot; Clark said.