If you were able to catch an Oregon Duck football game in the past couple seasons, you may have noticed a tenacious young linebacker by the name of Michael Clay. A two-year starter for Chip Kelly in Eugene, Clay was the heartbeat of the Duck defense.
And despite being undersized for his position, No. 46 ran down plays all over the field and helped set the tempo.
But with his size limitations, there are a lot of assumptions about what he can and can’t do at the next level. Heading into the 2013 draft, Clay is projected seventh-round/FA prospect, per NFL Draft Scout.
As late-round prospect, gaining credibility and a role in the NFL will be an uphill battle from the start, but nothing Clay is not used to.
For five things you need to know about Michael Clay before he's drafted, proceed through the following slides.
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Birthday: August 30, 1991
High School: Bellarmine College Prep
Born and raised in Northern California, Clay wanted to stay relatively close to home when it came to choosing his university. Even though he was not a top recruit, he earned several offers, primarily from schools on the coast.
Out of seven possible destinations, Clay would remain on the West Coast, traveling north to the University of Oregon.
He would play four seasons for the Ducks (2009-2012) at linebacker and on special teams. And following a big senior season this past year, Clay officially declared for the 2013 NFL draft.
2009: 11 Games, 32 Tackles, 2 TFL, 1.0 Sack, 0 Interceptions
2010: 13 Games, 42 Tackles, .5 TFL, 0 Sacks, 1 Interception
2011: 11 Games, 102 Tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 Sacks, 2 Interceptions
2012: 12 Games, 101 Tackles, 10 TFL, 3.0 Sacks, 0 Interceptions
Right away, teams have to be enamored with the four years of statistical output by Clay. He got involved immediately, seeing the field as a freshman. Clay was able to learn from the upperclassmen, sharpen his game and earn more responsibility over time.
The increased production is also visible here—particularly the jump from his sophomore campaign to junior year (2010-2011). He made the transition from reserve linebacker to starter, and his 102 tackles were second best on the team.
Over his career he was able to contribute in multiple phases, showing his versatility as a player.
And for an undersized linebacker, it is reassuring to see that he performed in double-digit games for four straight years. One of the big questions against him is durability. For those questioning Clay, this may be a good indication that he can handle the physicality of the LB position.
Weight: 230 lbs
Arm Length: 30.75"
40-Yard Dash: X
Bench Press: X
Vertical Jump: X
Broad Jump: X
3-Cone Drill: X
20-Yard Shuttle: X
*Did not participate
40-Yard Dash: 4.76 seconds
20-Yard Dash: 2.74 seconds
10-Yard Dash: 1.70 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31.5"
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 seconds
3-Cone Drill: 6.86 seconds
Broad Jump: 9’6"
Leading up to Clay’s pro day in Eugene, the former Oregon LB spent two months weight-training. In his preparations for the NFL draft, Clay successfully added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame (h/t Oregon Live).
Given the concerns about his lack of height, Clay wanted to add size while retaining that fluid quickness that made him such an efficient tackler. Even though he proved he can play the game, he cannot seem to shake the “height deficient” label.
But, a smart player, Clay knew the only thing he could do was improve in other areas—thus his efforts to get broader and stronger.
His 40-time was not spectacular—he registered just outside the top 15 linebackers that participated at the NFL combine. He was merely on par with projected mid-rounders Sean Porter (4.75) and Kevin Reddick (4.72), but he wasn't far off from first-round prospect Alex Ogletree (4.70).
This just proves speed doesn’t tell the whole story. If and when an NFL team picks Michael Clay, it’s going to be because it liked the tenacity it saw on tape—not his pre-draft measurables.
Before leaving high school for Oregon, Clay listened to offers from California, Colorado, Colorado State, New Mexico, Washington and Washington State.
Arizona State and UCLA also showed faint interest.
Coming out of Bellarmine Prep, Clay was a two-way player, fulfilling linebacker and fullback duties (h/t Go Ducks).
According to Rivals, he was a 3-star recruit, coming in as the No. 43-ranked OLB in the nation. He was also just the No. 61 college prospect in the state of California at the time.
However, Clay would accept a scholarship and make an impact at the NCAA level.
Given his standing entering college, he showed promise going forward, having been named the 2009 Oregon first-year player of the year as a freshman.
By the time he was a sophomore, Clay had proven he was a hard worker on and off the field, earning a Pac-10 All-Academic Honorable Mention in 2010.
In a big senior year in 2012, Clay would earn major recognition for his Week 4 performance against the Wildcats.
In division play, the Oregon linebacker took home both Pac-12 and NCAA National FBS defensive-player-of-the-week honors. With a team-leading performance by Clay, the Ducks would go on to shut out a No. 22-ranked Arizona.
In that game, Clay was all over the place, racking up 13 tackles (10 solo, 2 TFL), which included a sack and a forced fumble.
Clay had two more dominant performances that season, facing elite-level competition in Stanford and Wisconsin (Rose Bowl). He rose to the occasion, having two of the best games of his career: He finished with 20 tackles versus the Cardinal and 13 against the Badgers.
In 2012, Clay was officially named to the Rotary Lombardi Award Preseason Watch List, with the award itself presented to the nation’s top college lineman or linebacker each year. That year, he was also voted to the All-Pac-12 second team.
Under the umbrella of a prestigious program like the Ducks, Clay became a very decorated and consistent ball player. He was a major role player for the team, which should earn him draft recognition.
As mentioned in a prior slide, Michael Clay did not receive an invitation to the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.
He instead put his all into the Oregon pro day, which received a fair amount of league attention.
Among the teams present at the workout were the Cardinals, Falcons, Bills, Panthers, Bears, Broncos, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Raiders, Steelers, Chargers, Seahawks and Buccaneers (h/t NFL Draft Scout).
The Philadelphia Eagles—now led by Clay's former head coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly—did not, however, send a representative to the pro day. The Eagles are making the switch to a 3-4 this year, and you'll notice the majority of organizations that sent scouts were predominantly 4-3 teams.
So, the defensive scheme might have been part of the reason. At the next level, Clay projects best as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 but also has the ability to pitch in on special teams.
But even though they were not in attendance at the pro day, Kelly and the Eagles did schedule a dinner with the former Duck last month. The head coach saw enough of Clay up close and personal to have an evaluation of him:
Oregon linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay bothdining with the Philadelphia Eagles tonight.— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 14, 2013
There is a chance Kelly brings him aboard, adding depth to the linebacking corps and a potential standout gunner on the special-teams unit.
Michael Clay may not be the difference-making-type player teams covet in the draft, but he has the foundation to be a solid contributor as a pro for five-to-10 years.