One of the biggest storylines that has permeated the recruiting world since the end of the 2013 cycle is the reincarnation of sorts of the Auburn football program.
Auburn experienced a huge drop-off both in talent and recruiting prestige in Gene Chizik's final season with the program, and the Tigers were trending in the wrong direction.
Enter new head coach Gus Malzahn, though, and the tone surrounding Auburn football has drastically changed. It could have been because of his abilities as a recruiter, the top-notch staff he put together or the promise of his high-powered and efficient offense. No matter the reason, the Tigers finished extremely strong on the recruiting trail in 2013 and enter the '13 season as a program back on the rise.
Momentum is everything in recruiting, so that bodes well for the Tigers' 2014 class.
The purpose behind this visit was for Clark to bring his parents to see the Tigers' program. He felt like the visit was a success.
"We took a tour of the campus. I had to get my mom and dad to see the coaching staff," Clark said. "It went well like it always does. My sister came down here to see everything -- they thought it was awesome. They like the whole coaching staff.
"We'll talk more once we get home, but right now I think they like Auburn from their expressions. I'm a family type guy so I like my family to be around."
The news of a good visit is huge for Auburn, as Clark is undoubtedly a big in-state recruit. This was also the second time he's visited Auburn in the past month, per Hokanson. He's ranked as the No. 6 recruit from the state of Alabama, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. He's 6'3.5'', 210 pounds and runs a 4.59 40, according to 247Sports. He's also ranked as the No. 9 safety in the 2014 class (247Sports Composite).
Another bit of good news is that he has a good relationship with safeties coach Charlie Harbison according to Hokanson's report, so for all intents and purposes the Tigers are in a good position with the in-state safety.
That said, naturally, Alabama is the other program on top of Clark's 247Sports interest list, and the Crimson Tide appear pretty even with Auburn, at least according to this quote, via Hokanson:
"I like they have the people at both places. You have to find what place fits you. They are both good schools and you can't go wrong at either school. I still have to take visits, but I think they both are good schools. I don't see which one stands out. I just want to take my time to see what each offers."
Clark's visit to Auburn reportedly went well, but he's not a lock to the Tigers in any way. Malzahn and company will have a lot of work to do in order to bring him into the fold.
On paper, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have a tremendous advantage on the recruiting trail, but that's where Malzahn and his staff can capitalize on their own momentum.
There's no greater momentum than coming off a national championship season, so Alabama still has a trump card, but Malzahn does have a very unique pitch. The chance to be part of a rebuilding SEC powerhouse could be very appealing to a top-notch in-state recruit like Clark. Especially after the 2013 recruiting cycle, the future of Auburn's defense is very bright.
Auburn may not have the current draw of Alabama, but it certainly has immense potential as a program. The offense promises to be exciting under Malzahn, and the defense looks set up to be dominant. Clark could be a marquee part of Auburn's turnaround, and that can be an extremely effective pitch.
Also consider that defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson utilizes a 4-2-5 defense, which really emphasizes safety play. Clark would be a great fit at the "star" safety position, which would be a spot where he can be a feature defender and make a ton of plays.
Considering Auburn's "rebuilding state," the chance to play and play often will be there on a very young and talented defense. Clark could compete with 2013 safety recruits Brandon King and Mackenro Alexander, and he has the talent to make an impact from day one.
It's hard to deny what Alabama would offer him in terms of championship-level football right off the bat, and safety will be an area of need for the Crimson Tide soon enough, so Malzahn's pitch will have to be spot-on if he wants to eventually land Clark. It's also worth noting that Clark has visited Alabama twice as well in the past month and a half (Hokanson).
This is going to be a big in-state recruiting battle to watch in Alabama. Also keep an eye out for Clemson and South Carolina (both listed as "warm interests" according to his 247Sports interest list).
Despite the report of a good visit, Auburn is in no way a lock for Clark. That said, if Malzahn can work off the momentum he built at the end of the 2013 cycle, I like the Tigers' pitch for the 4-star safety moving forward.
Will it be enough to out-recruit Alabama?
We've seen Saban get the last laugh in the past, but so far, Malzahn has proven himself as a worthy competitor on the recruiting trail.
I like his chances.