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Miami Hurricanes center Jakai Clark set to battle to hold onto starting job: "I expect to compete"

Gary Ferman08/08/22
Article written by:On3 imageGary Ferman


Jakai Clark
Miami Hurricanes OL Jakai Clark (photo by Neil Gershman)

Miami Hurricanes center Jakai Clark isn’t going to wow you with his size or physicality. He gets the job done with leverage, technique and smarts. It seems ever since he got to Miami in 2019 there were questions about whether he needed to redshirt and spend a year in the weight room. Well, so far that hasn’t happened.

And there are no signs yet that it will happen this year. Clark was the starting center in spring ball, and he’ll compete with Jon Denis and Laurence Seymore in fall drills.

While Clark’s started 19 games the last two seasons, the fourth-year junior isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I expect to compete,” Clark said. “You can expect a competition not only at center but amongst everybody. Training camp is a fun time because it’s open competition, everyone will get better from it.

“It’s exciting just to get back on the field with our brothers and everything. Go out there and compete at the highest level. I’m just looking forward to getting better each and every day.”

Clark says physically this off-season “I got a little bit stronger,” and he says the possibility of a redshirt if he’s beaten out for the starting center job “isn’t off the table.”

But his focus is on playing. And succeeding.

“I’m focused on going out there and compete to my highest level,” he said. “I want to compete out there.

“I’m confident in where I’m at right now (physically). But I say it every time, I always feel there’s something I can get better at.”

Last season he graded out at 57.7 overall pre Pro Football Focus, with 70 considered a solid number. His pass blocking was especially strong at 74.3, but he had a 51.5 run-blocking grade. And in Josh Gattis’ system, strong run blocking is a must.

So Clark must show Miami coaches in fall drills he can be a people-mover.

“As an offensive lineman one thing you want to do is run the ball,” Clark said. “We know in past years we’ve been a pretty pass-heavy offense. It’s exciting to go out there and show people what we can do as far as running the ball.”

He adds that, with Gattis, Mario Cristobal and Alex Mirabal on board, that “Having that level of coaches coming in, it changes everybody in the room’s mindset. Apart from playbook, play style, mindset and coaching overall has upped a bunch.”

The bottom line for Clark when it comes to the center spot and fall drills?

“I’m going into this knowing other guys can play center and if I don’t come in every day competing they will take my spot,” he says.