Marcus Clarke Discusses Why Vols are Among His Finalists

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    (Photo via West Orange Times)

    On the Fourth of July, Marcus Clarke decided to announce his five finalists in his recruitment. Tennessee made the cut along with Georgia, Florida State, Miami, and West Virginia. So why did the three-star athlete from Winter Park, Florida decide to include the Vols among his finalists?

    Clarke spoke with me about his decision to include Tennessee among his top teams, his recent visit to UT’s campus, and his timeframe for his decision.

    The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Clarke has taken visits to all but one of the teams in his top five. He says he plans on visiting West Virginia in either September or October, but he’s already seen Tennessee, Miami, Florida State, and Georgia at least once.

    So what did he think of his visit to Knoxville?

    “I visited a few weeks ago with my team, and we played the 7-on-7 there,” Clarke stated. “It was very nice. The fans are great, and they have great facilities.”

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    While on his visit, Clarke was introduced to Tennessee’s defensive coaching staff. Clarke, who plays both wide receiver and defensive back for Winter Park High School, says that the Vols are looking at him as a defensive back, and all five schools in his list of finalists are pursuing him as a cornerback or safety. The defensive side of the ball is where he wants to play in college, too.

    As a junior for Winter Park, Clarke totaled 59 receptions for 1,004 yards and 21 touchdowns on offense, and he returned two punts for scores as well. But it’s his defensive skills that are being looked at by the coaches recruiting him, and he picked off three passes and returned two for touchdowns as a defensive back last season.

    Before he made his visit to Knoxville, Clarke knew little about Tennessee’s program. He knew that Peyton Manning played for the Vols back in the day, but he knew little else about UT.

    Now that he’s visited, he has a better feel for what Tennessee can offer him and what he can give to the Vols.

    “It made me feel like I can become part of a great program and make a big difference for the team,” Clarke said of his visit to UT.

    Clarke says he plans on making all five of his official visits before announcing a commitment, and the plan right now is for all five of his finalists to get his official visits. He’s still in the process of planning out those trips, but they’ll all come in the next three months. Clarke’s plan right now is to make a decision on which school to commit to by mid-November.

    So how will he decide which school is the right one for him?

    “If my family is comfortable and if I’m comfortable,” Clarke replied when asked what he’s looking for in a school. “It has to be a great school environment and a fun school.”

    While he plans his visits and tries to figure out his future, Clarke is also focusing on his final season of high school football. Clarke’s junior year at Winter Park didn’t end how he wanted it to, with the Wildcats going 9-1 in the regular season but falling 41-8 in the second round of the playoffs to eventual state champion Mandarin.

    Clarke’s goal as a senior is to finish his high school career in style along with figuring out where he’ll be playing in college.

    “It’s my last season, so I have to go out with a bang.”

    Clarke is the No. 776 overall player and No. 90 prospect in the state of Florida in the 2020 class according to 247Sports.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.