A defense to be reckoned with

A DEFENSE TO BE RECKONED WITH: Central’s defense was dominant through the entire season and solidified itself as the best defense in Georgia.

THOMASVILLE — After a year filled with defensive success, Thomas County Central defensive coordinator Cam Clark has been hired as Duke’s new senior defensive analyst. The move comes after former Duke coach Mike Elko was selected for the Texas A&M job, a move that shook the college football world. Duke then went out and hired Manny Diaz, who had previously served as Penn State’s defensive coordinator.

“It kind of came about quick. Kind of out of nowhere,” Clark said.

Clark spent 14 years in college football before his two year stent with Thomas County Central. He worked with college football coaching royalty Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn at Auburn and was a defensive coordinator at Lamar and Western Illinois. One of Clark’s closest friends is the new offensive coordinator at Duke, Jonathan Brewer, a friendship that put him on Duke’s radar.

Clark said he’s looking forward to working and learning under Diaz. As the Nittany Lions’ DC, Diaz guided Penn State to one of the best defenses in the country.

“If you look at Manny Diaz’s path, he’s been a part of and built some great defenses,” Clark said. “He has always been known to be a think outside the box kind of guy, which is exciting for me because I think he has a different spin and outlook on defense and I think that will be really cool to learn.”

Under Clark, Central’s defense achieved remarkable success. In their undefeated state championship season, the Yellow Jackets were the best defense in Georgia 6A and arguably the best defense in the state. They held opponents to an average of 9.6 points per game in 15 games and were well above the national average in tackles, sacks, QB hurries and interceptions. For Clark, he said that the Yellow Jacket defense was successful because of the way they used their players strengths.

Top of the nation

TOP OF THE NATION: Central was well above the national average sack rate (13.2) with 34 sacks on the year.

“It’s about what you have. It’s about the talent you have and understanding what those players strengths are and what their weaknesses are,” said Clark. “We were able to do a lot of things with that because we had some really good athletes. We weren’t real big up front, but we were extremely athletic. So, our philosophy since I’ve been here because of that, especially this year, was we want to move and disguise a whole bunch and never let you see the picture that we’re going to be in and our kids really bought into that.”

Now, as he starts with Duke on Monday, Clark will be inheriting a solid defense. Duke’s defense was ranked in the top 50 last season, according to the NCAA who ranked them at 41.

They allowed just 27 touchdowns all season, tied for eighth in the nation, and had a remarkable red-zone defense that ranked number eight in the country.

However, Clark said that for he and his family, the move is bittersweet. Clark basically grew up with Thomas County Central Football. Though he didn’t graduate from Central, he has a long family history steeped in Yellow Jacket tradition.

“This was a lot like home for me. It’s really bittersweet,” Clark said. “This is really tough. This is truly home for us now. This will be the hardest move we’ve ever made, we’ve bounced all around the country and this is the toughest one to say goodbye to.”

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