"It was just a lot of one-on-one attention. You felt like everybody actually cared, so that's probably why I was blown so much away."
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson once worked at the picturesque school of T.C. Williams, a setting for Disney's "Remember the Titans," and Clarke's current DL coach played under Johnson there. So, Clarke said, he heard an earful about Johnson's ability and what PSU has to offer. But he had never before visited the campus.
The 6-foot-4, 272-pound recruit -- who holds a Penn State offer -- said the school exceeded his and his father's expectations. He was looking forward to chatting with Johnson, but he didn't think the longtime coach would spend "30 or 40 percent of the day" alongside him.
They watched film in a meeting room and, while Clarke reclined at a desk, the coach stood and began breaking down Clarke's film. He pointed out small details about Clarke's stance and shared several critiques -- and practice tips for him and his team -- that Clarke had never before heard.
"It was impressive," Clarke said. "He said things that coaches hadn't told me before, so maybe I can use that to dominate my next year. He's just a great coach. That just sort of woke me up."
The versatile lineman toured the campus, briefly visited Beaver Stadium on a chilly day and attended practice. He paid close attention to Johnson's coaching style and chatted with departing players Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill, both of whom are projected to be drafted into the NFL in the second or third round.
The two espoused the positives of Penn State and emphasized the family aspect of sticking together through hard times. Clarke talked with Hill inside the weight room a day after Hill spoke with several NFL teams, and Clarke said he was again surprised at just how the roomy, blue-and-white space stood out.
"That weight room was amazing, just beautiful," he said during his 3½-hour drive back home. "There was so much information today that it blew my socks off. It was a lot of information to take in in one day; I'm still sort of recovering."
Clarke, who holds a dozen offers from the likes of Maryland, Temple and West Virginia, hopes to mine for information on other schools next week. He's scheduled to see the Owls next Wednesday and Wake Forest the day after. He wants to make a return trip to see the Nittany Lions, possibly in the early summer, but he won't be able to make the Blue-White Game, because he's set to take part in a Nike Football Training Camp the next day.
Still, he said, he's already looking forward to speaking with Johnson again.
"He's an ecstatic coach, and he's a motivator," Clarke said. "Just watching him, he's energetic. He's going to work you hard and make you the best player you can be, and he's going to be a father-figure to make sure you're on top of your stuff. And that's great to see in a coach."