Texas Tech is Sticking with Chapel Hill’s Joseph Clark + New East Texas Players Shine at Red Raiders’ Longview Camp
LONGVIEW -- Just 363 days ago, former Chapel Hill defensive back Joseph Clark turned in a masterful performance at Texas Tech's camp in Longview and earned a full-ride scholarship to the university prior to his senior season.
He returned to Lobo Stadium to check out what the Red Raiders are up to in 2014, but he will not be a part of their team this year. He'll be in Tyler this fall working part-time at a Whataburger while rehabbing from a compound left leg injury.
The road for Clark has been incredibly difficult since the high point in Longview, and it will get tougher as he works toward the end goal.
There was good reason to visit with the coaches that recruited him to Texas Tech, however. The staff will honor his scholarship whether the Chapel Hill star plays for them or not.
"It's straight Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury," Red Raiders' co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Eric Morris said. "There was never even a discussion about it. It wasn't even brought up one time that we were going to drop the kid. We got to know him, we sold him on it, he committed to us and when they commit to us we commit to them as well.
"It was something that was never discussed. He was going to be on scholarship no matter what. We've been encouraging him more than anything, having as many surgeries as he's had and allowing him to know, 'Your spot is there when you get healthy.'"
Clark's midseason injury against Henderson could turn the strongest stomach inside out.
He tore three ligaments in his knee. His hamstring muscle popped off the bone. So did some other tissues.
The nerves running from his leg all the way down to his foot also sustained damage to the degree his doctors initially weren't convinced the defensive back could play again.
Clark has been through three surgeries -- the first operation requiring shift work from the doctors -- and is nearing the point he can run on the leg again.
"It means a hell of a lot," Clark said. "It still means a lot. Just coming out here and seeing where I basically got my scholarship from -- If I had not come out here I would not have gotten a scholarship."
Kingsbury was unavailable for comment. He left the camp immediately after its conclusion for a school function in Houston.
Clark rode a wave into that Longview camp.
The defensive back had a solid outing at a Rivals.com camp in Dallas a few weeks prior and then came to Texas Tech's East Texas outpost. He wowed the staff with quick lateral movements, physicality associated with bigger backs and coverage skills against an extremely talented class of receivers.
"They started messaging me on Facebook immediately after," Clark said. "(Cornerbacks) Coach (Kevin) Curtis kept talking and then (safeties) Coach (Trey) Haverty. Pretty soon, I'd say maybe a week after the camp, they offered."
Clark verbally committed to Texas Tech on July 27, 2013 and all was going according to plan.
The injury derailed everything.
"I took it pretty hard," Clark said. "I didn't really like being around people or my team. I went through three surgeries. The first being the worst. It went seven hours. The others were pretty basic."
The Chapel Hill player was invited to an official, in-season visit at Texas Tech and arrived on crutches that made him look like Tiny Tim shortly after the initial surgery.
Results improved after each operation.
He looks like he could play for the Red Raiders today with exception to his leg. While it's way more developed than the average man's, the limb doesn't quite match his upper body nor the uninjured right leg.
That could change soon. All parties are optimistic the leg will complete its strong immediate response.
Once Clark arrives at Texas Tech, he will have four years of eligibility and also the ability to redshirt a season.
Worst case scenario, he will leave the university with zero student debt as a non-participating student.
"I really got scared as soon as it happened," Clark said. "I thought that it was over. I thought I wouldn't play at Texas Tech. I didn't know what would happen.
"I told Coach Curtis to give me a call as soon as possible. I didn't want to leave a message, you know? The next morning, we talked and he was like, 'Everything will be OK. We're still going to honor your scholarship. You're going to come back even stronger.' He told me how he tore his ACL multiple times. Then he put me on the phone with Coach Kingsbury and he talked to me for a while. They just kept me up."
Van's Luke McGowan Works For Dream Opportunity
Luke McGowan looks primed to be a huge asset for Van this season.
Will the small yet brilliantly productive receiver add a Division I offer before the Vandals' season kicks off? The past two days have been promising.
McGowan (5-9 1/2, 172) put together back-to-back strong performances at a North Texas camp in the Metroplex and Texas Tech's camp in East Texas. Coaches from both staffs have singled him out and want to see his junior year films.
"It was a great experience," the Van receiver said after Texas Tech's camp. "They really run a camp well. Coach Morris helped me a lot and told me I was doing better throughout the camp. He told me to send my film to him personally and that he'd be looking out for me. He asked how I did this past season and stats and everything."
McGowan faces several issues in his journey to play major collegiate football. Most notably, his ratio of speed to height makes coaching staffs hesitant to offer scholarships when they could pick up a similar player -- or even the same player -- by handing out preferred walk-on status.
McGowan has strong grades which virtually assure admittance to state colleges. Especially when a college football coach puts in a good word with the university's admission staff.
But this receiver seems special. He almost never drops the ball.
McGowan is an elite route runner and catches a variety of intentionally poorly thrown balls from evaluating coaches. He assures positive yardage whether he is tackled immediately or gets free for more yardage.
He's not just a drill player. McGowan plays physical against bigger defensive backs and creates space for the catch.
Van's possession man finished second among receivers in bench press reps of 185 pounds at the ETSN.fm Recruiting Combine and tested very well in the medicine ball and Keiser squat competitions.
Morris, nicknamed 'The Elf' in his playing days, played his football at Texas Tech and faced a similar circumstance. He was a last-minute Mike Leach recruit in the school's 2004 class.
The school's history with short receivers didn't begin with Morris.
It really began with Wes Welker, a 5-foot-9 player Leach offered at the final hour in 2000.
Former Red Raider receiver Austin Zouzalik was another productive player and current receiver Jordan Davis also fits the mold.
That is to say if a school knows what small receivers can do, it's Texas Tech.
McGowan wears No. 6 at Van. It was inspired by Zouzalik wearing the number as a Red Raider.
"I've been a big Tech fan," the receiver said. "I knew who Coach Morris was before he became a coach here and I knew who Coach Kingsbury was before he coached football at Texas Tech. I've gone to a few of their games back in the day and it was really good. I have a few friends who have influenced me in Tech. I love the campus there and the university and everything there. It's a great experience to be there."
Longview's Broderick Washington Enjoys Camp
Longview offensive lineman Broderick Washington didn't have to travel very far to see what Texas Tech had to offer.
The holder of Arkansas State, Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico, North Texas and UTSA offers received interest from the Texas Tech coaching staff as did Lufkin's Erik McCoy.
"They seemed very interested," Washington said. "When I first walked in, I saw Coach Haverty. Coach Haverty introduced me to the rest of the coaching staff. Everyone was great and friendly."
The Red Raiders' coaching staff is an intriguing group.
Kingsbury is as likely to be on E! News as a Ryan Gosling lookalike as he is a football coach on ESPN. He had appearances on both TV channels last year.
His staff is fairly young and not very far from their own playing days, so high school prospects generally hold the idea the staff will understand them better than older coaching groups.
"We got a few laughs in while working at the same time," Washington said. "It was great. It was fun to be out here."
Carthage's James Marshall Picks Up Trinity Valley Offer
James Marshall attended Texas Tech's camp in Longview and received a fair amount of interest from linebackers coach Mike Smith.
He also received a college football offer from Trinity Valley Community College, something solid on top of interest from the Red Raiders, Baylor, Abilene Christian, Texas A&M-Commerce and a few other schools.
Marshall's stock has risen at each camp.
He's an interior linebacker, a big one at that with a good frame, who could become athletic enough to move to outside linebacker and be featured in a unit emphasizing pass defense.
Marshall helped Carthage win the Class 3A Division I championship in December.