Clark's swagger doing all the talking at Pitt
Saturday, April 10, 2010

[IMGL][/IMGL]Bernard Clark runs up and down the Pitt practice field as if he's ready to strap on his helmet and shoulder pads. If he's allotted another year of eligibility, the 43-year-old linebackers coach would give it a go.

Without a doubt, Clark is that intense.

It's why Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt in February hired the former University of Miami linebacker, who helped lead the Hurricanes to national championships in 1987 and 1989.

"When you talk about bringing a guy onto your staff who has won national championships, he brings a little swagger to our defense in a positive way," said Wannstedt, who served as Miami's defensive coordinator during Clark's college career.

Wannstedt knew Clark would inspire his linebackers, including Max Gruder, Greg Williams and Dan Mason. He is confident that Clark's credentials make it easier for players to listen and learn.

Clark, though, isn't much on talking. He's interested only in results.

"It's not about talking about it," Clark said in his dimly lit office. "If I had to put on some pads at 43 to jack up a 19-year-old, then sometimes you have to do that. It's a situation where they have to understand that you can't play without intensity."

There are number of things Clark will be looking for when the Panthers scrimmage this morning on the South Side. He is demanding that his linebackers tackle better. He wants them to make better reads and show they are more patient after a month of spring practice.

More than anything, he'll be scoring the kind of effort plays that swing momentum or alter a game's outcome.

"You have to enforce effort," said Clark, MVP of the 1988 Orange Bowl. "One of my pet peeves is missed tackles. When I got to Miami, the guys in front of me took pride in making tackles."

The Hurricanes have produced a number of sure tacklers including Ray Lewis, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed. But few were as sure as Clark, who locked onto running backs with a vise-like grip.

Clark has greater expectations for what could be among the best trio of linebackers in the Big East next season. He isn't bothered by much but admitted he'll be troubled if his safeties, Jarred Holley and Dom DeCicco, lead the Panthers in tackles.

"The first thing (Clark) said to us was that his priorities are tackling and make sure we aren't loafing," Gruder said. "He wants us to be 1, 2, and 3 in tackling. That's the way it should be. That's the way it's going to be."

Even though Holley and DeCicco will play close to the line of scrimmage, Clark said he fears the run defense will break down if the safeties are being pressed to make tackles.

"A linebacker should be sick to his stomach to see a defensive back with more tackles," said Clark, who has coached at Florida International and South Florida. "Our linebackers understand the pressure, but if they learn something new every day like how to take on blockers they'll play well.

"Of course, the biggest thing is intensity. If they go full speed, we can correct a mistake. If they're loafing, we can't correct that. The only thing you can't coach is effort."