Clark heads into the 2016 NFL Draft with plenty of high praise. CBS Sports’ NFL Draft Scout views the former Bruin as one of the top defensive lineman in this draft class and either a late-first or early-second round prospect.
A similar theme rings true from draft expert and insider, Tony Pauline, who ranks Clark as a top-five interior defensive lineman and potential first rounder.
Clark decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft a year early, and for good measure. In 2015, he was one of the top defensive lineman in the country, recording 75 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Almost just as impressively, he also batted down five passes at the line of scrimmage.
The San Bernardino, California native is a versatile defensive line prospect, who proved to be a reliable anchor at nose tackle in UCLA’s 3-4 front, starting 29 consecutive games as sophomore and junior in college.
Clark could be a viable option for the Green Bay Packers when they’re on the clock with the 27th overall pick in the first round. They could use depth on the defensive line, and with veteran B.J. Raji departing in free agency, they still need a starting-caliber nose tackle heading into the 2016 season.
Clark very well may be their guy. Considering the possible fit, I recently spoke with Clark over the phone to learn more about his game and hear his thoughts on the upcoming NFL Draft.
Here is what Clark had to say about his style of play, how his wrestling background helps him excel as a defensive lineman, and how he’d feel about playing in Green Bay if the Packers did indeed select him.
Kenny Clark Q&A
Q. You had an outstanding career at UCLA, starting 29 consecutive games and earning First-team All-PAC 12 honors. What did your time there mean to you?
Clark: It was a good experience. Just the camaraderie I had with my teammates. It was always good. I love my teammates and coaches there. The biggest thing I took away was all the friendships I formed. My teammates are like my brothers.
Q. Do you have a favorite moment or game playing for the Bruins?
Clark: All the times we beat USC. Those were definitely the best moments. We were always amped up before the game, and after winning those games, I just celebrated with my teammates, which are moments I’ll never forget.
Q. This past season your defense suffered some injuries to key players, but you continued making plays and remained a cornerstone on your team. A lot of people have been buzzing about your 2015 performance. What do you feel you were able to prove to everyone about your game this past year?
Clark: I just wanted to show everyone I’m consistent. I don’t think a lot of people understand how much being consistent really helps you in football, and how much it really matters in the game. I played at least 80% or more of our defensive snaps, and I stayed consistent over the course of the season. I probably played more snaps than any defensive lineman in this draft last year, and I showed that consistency on the field every game.
Q. It’s a really good year for defensive linemen in the draft and you’re definitely one of the better defensive lineman in this class, so what do you think makes you stand out among the other prospects at the position?
Clark: For one, I feel I’m a really good player. As far as the mental part of the game, my experience allows me to understand what to do in different situations. I understand how to handle adversity, and last year I proved that. My consistency to stay on the field and play a lot of snaps definitely gives me an edge over the other defensive linemen in this class. I went against the top tier talent in the PAC-12 on a weekly basis, and I feel I proved I’m one of the best. I’m dependable, and I do what I’m coached to do on the field.
Q. Many draft analysts speak highly of you and regard you as one of the better defensive lineman coming out of college. What is your mindset heading into the draft? Do you have a goal or idea of where or when you could be drafted?
Clark: My goal is to definitely go in the first round. But, the way I think of it now is that I just got to be myself and let everything else go. Either the team is going to like me or they’re not. I’m going to compete for whatever team drafts me, and that’s the biggest thing for me. I’m going to do my job and do what I’m coached to do, regardless. First round would be great, but at the end of the day, whoever drafts me is going to get a great player that will work hard.
Q. Did you get any sense from teams at the combine for where they’d pick you, or who’s showing interest in selecting you in the draft?
Clark: Not really. I had a lot of great interviews. The tough part is everyone I interviewed with it felt like they were going to pick me. I feel like I had a lot of great interviews and I met a lot of great people, coaches and other players. It was fun getting to know the coaches there.
Q. Is it difficult as a player to know what to expect when it comes to the draft, or are you just trying to wait and see what happens?
Clark: It’s hard because you just never know. It could be a team out there I haven’t even talked to or had a meeting with that ends up drafting me. You never know what could happen. I’m just taking in that mentality. I have to just be myself and do what I got to do and let the rest figure itself out. I’m just going to work hard and if they love me, they love me, and if they don’t, they don’t. It’s only going to take one team that loves me to draft me.
Q. Let’s talk about your game. What are your strengths as a defensive lineman and how would you define your style of play?
Clark: My strength is definitely my run stopping ability. As far as how I play the game, I’m a tough hard-nosed player. I’m a team-first guy that’s going to put the team before my individual goals. I can also play multiple positions and am willing to play any position on the defensive line teams want me to play. I’m going to try my best to be a leader on my team and earn the respect of my teammates.
Q. At UCLA, you played multiple positions on the defensive line, whether it’s nose tackle or defensive tackle in sub. What do you feel is your best fit in the NFL?
Clark: I feel I can play anywhere well at the next level. Based on a lot of my interviews with teams, a lot of people see me as a versatile defensive lineman. When they tell me to look at something, they have me look at all three defensive line positions, not just nose guard. I feel I can definitely play nose guard, three-tech, and defensive end. Wherever they put me, I’m going to do my job.
Q. Watching you in college, your ability to stop the run and take on blocks definitely stands out. However, you also bring a lot to the table as an interior pass rusher. Do you think your ability to create interior pressure is an underrated aspect of your game?
Clark: I feel like it’s an underrated part of my game because it just came on last year. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a superior pass rusher. I did have six sacks last year, but I mean, it was only last year. I’m a humble guy and I’m going to take my time and focus on what I need to work at, and my pass rush is still something I need to work at. I’ll tell you I’m good at run stopping, but I’m never going to say I’m a good pass rusher until I start consistently showing everyone on the field that I’m a good pass rusher.
Q. Was there something different about your final season at UCLA that led to more production in that area of your game?
Clark: Pass rushing has been a focus of my game lately. I always work on my hands. Just understanding protections and knowing where my coaches want me to be and keeping contain, staying tight to the blocks. That’s a big thing about pass rushing. I’m trying to learn as much as possible and keep working on having violent hands and violent feet. And, once I get into a different system and can actually put my foot back and get off the ball, going upfield and attacking, I can contribute way more as a pass rusher.
Q. You’ve had a lot of success over the years. What has helped you the most playing defensive line at such a high level?
Clark: I’ve always tried to play hard, but I’ve really drawn from my wrestling background. I think wresting is probably one of the hardest sports to play. You are constantly tired and constantly trying to find a way to keep breathing and to keep your air. You have to have that mindset that you can’t allow your opponent to see you tired and you have to work hard and just keep attacking. Wrestling and just having that type of relentless mindset really carries over to my play on the defensive line because I never give up and I always try to play hard on every snap.
Q. Are there any NFL players you model your game, try to study, or feel you play similar to?
Clark: I definitely have to say Geno Atkins. I love the way he plays the game. Haloti Ngata as well. Recently, I’ve been watching Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels. I found out he has a wrestling background. Watching him, I see a lot of good things he’s doing and you can apply all of the things he’s doing to wrestling with the style of football he plays. I really like the way Mike Daniels plays the game.
Q. The Green Bay Packers will definitely look early in the draft this April to find some help on the defensive line, and we feel you’re a guy they’ll highly consider. If you happened to be selected by the Packers, what do you feel you could bring to their defense?
Clark: I’m a guy that’s going to put the team first, so listening to my coaches and taking their instruction is important. I’m also going to work hard to earn the respect of my teammates and I’m going work hard in order to win a championship. That’s the goal. All I want to do is play on a great team and for a great organization. For a team that wants me, for fans that want me, for teammates that want me, and just succeed in all of those things.
Q. They do play a 3-4 front, as well as a lot of nickel. Where do you see yourself playing on the defensive line in that type of scheme?
Clark: I see myself playing in both. I played shaded nose and head-up nose in college. I can also play three-tech, and I’ve played a little bit of four high. I never got out to the 5-technique, but you play all of them exactly the same, technique wise.
Q. How would you feel about playing for Green Bay if it did come to that?
Clark: I think it would be awesome, man. I think it would just be crazy. I watched Green Bay all the time growing up. I saw all of the history there with Brett Favre and all of those guys. I know the fans up there are crazy and can get excited and that they really get behind the team. I know Lambeau is a hard place to play. I want to go to a team that wants me and that’s excited to have me. I’d definitely be there with open arms and ready to take everything in.
Q. Regardless of who drafts you, what will that moment mean to you when you finally hear your name called and you’re officially in the NFL?
Clark: It’s going to mean everything to me. I’m just imagining my family and all my friends. With everything I’ve been through, it’ll be great to finally get drafted and finally live my dream. After getting drafted, I’ll be ready to just get back to work and start winning football games.
Q. Who is the first person you’ll thank once you get drafted?
Clark: Definitely my mom and my dad. My mom will be sitting right next to me on that day. I’m pretty sure she’ll be sitting there crying, just excited for me.
Q. Finally, before we let you go. Tell us a little more about yourself. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time? Any favorite hobbies?
Clark: I’m a real family oriented guy. I like to chill with my family and my girlfriend. I also play video games all the time. I’m kind of quiet. I just like to relax and take it easy. I’m pretty much just a chill guy.
*I would like to thank Kenny for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him the best.
Check out previous Prospect Q&As:
James Cowser, DE, S. Utah
Juston Burris, CB, NC State
Luke Rhodes, LB, William & Mary
Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
Kevin Byard, SS, Middle Tennessee State
Devon Cajuste, WR, Stanford
Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin