Braxton Clark jumps in the air to celebrate with another teammate during game
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska Film Study: Cornerback Braxton Clark

June 22, 2020

Nebraska has an opening in the secondary with Lamar Jackson’s eligibility expiring. One option is to simply slide Cam Taylor-Britt and Dicaprio Bootle in as the outside corners with Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams at safety.

If Erik Chinander and Travis Fisher want to get more creative with how they use Taylor-Britt or Bootle, however, the Huskers have some good young options at cornerback that could be ready to step in and play a larger role.

One of them is Quinton Newsome. Another is Braxton Clark, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound corner from Orlando who is heading into his third season in the program.

Clark redshirted in 2018 but still saw the field in four games, making one tackle. This past season, he played in every game, contributing on both special teams and defense. He recorded 11 tackles (nine solo), one interception, one pass break-up and one fumble recovery as he saw playing time in sub-packages as well as in blowout situations.

Clark played somewhere in the area of 100 defensive snaps in 2019, and for the most part, I thought he held up very well. Teams didn’t really target him much at all when he checked in and I didn’t see him give up a single completion down field.

Clark got his first playing time on defense in 2019 in week three’s win over Northern Illinois. He logged 11 snaps in the game with the first coming in Nebraska’s 2-3-6 dime. He came in as an extra defensive back but played outside corner to the boundary side.

With Nebraska leading 30-8 in the third quarter, Clark checked in on third and 15 from the 5-yard line.

On the snap, the receiver made his way up the field and Clark leveraged him towards the sideline, blocking his path to cross back towards the middle of the field.

Clark was there with the receiver step-for-step, and after about 5 yards the wideout gave Clark a little shove and broke back towards the ball.

The quarterback completed the pass but Clark was there to make the tackle immediately.

He gave up a completion, but considering it was third and long 5 yards didn’t make a difference. Clark did his job on his first defensive snap and the Huskies had to punt.

Clark got a chance to play in Nebraska’s base defense later on in the fourth quarter as the Huskers sent in their reserve units. His first snap of the fourth quarter led to his first interception.

On first and 10 with Nebraska leading 37-8, Clark lined up across from a receiver to the boundary side with a small cushion.

Clark locked down the receiver working his way up the field, and the Huskers had the rest of the pass-catchers covered as well, though you can see No. 18 (Cole Tucker) working his way across the field. Feeling pressure, quarterback Ross Bowers left the pocket and rolled out to his right.

It’s somewhat hard to tell based on where the ball and players ended up, but as best I can tell Bowers was targeting Tucker, and maybe he just didn’t see Clark at all hanging out back there. The Huskers had a couple defenders closing in on him so Bowers got rid of the ball.

The throw was absolutely terrible and would have fallen incomplete behind Tucker had Clark not been there, but he was there and snagged the ball out of the air. He won’t get an easier interception the rest of his career. He pulled the ball down and took off.

Clark easily avoided the first Husky lineman that tried to tackle him as he worked his way back towards the middle of the field.

He made it back near the line of scrimmage before Northern Illinois managed to get him down.

This last play from the Northern Illinois game shows Clark does still have some work to do physically.

On fourth and 2, Clark lined up in tight coverage to the boundary side.

Clark dropped back in coverage but his man set the edge on Garrett Nelson instead of running a route. Meanwhile, the running back, Rahveon Valentine, made his way from the backfield out into the flat.

Quarterback Marcus Childers hit Valentine outside the numbers, but Clark was already heading his way.

Clark got there in time to make the play, but instead of running though the tackle he broke down and braced for the impact at the line of scrimmage.

Low man wins and Valentine powered through Clark, pushing him back past the line to gain before falling out of bounds.

Clark did a good job of reading the play and getting into position, he just wasn’t strong enough to finish it off.

Clark got nine snaps in garbage time against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes ran on eight of them and took a knee on the ninth. He played three snaps in Nebraska’s dime against Northwestern and made two more third-down stops, giving up a completion short of the sticks on third and long and making the tackle before the line to gain.

With Cam Taylor-Britt missing Nebraska’s game at Purdue in early November, Clark got his first start at cornerback as Dicaprio Bootle slid inside to safety. I charted 62 snaps for Clark in that game (though one of them was a kneel-down at the end).

Clark showed off his range in the red zone early in the second quarter with Nebraska leading 10-0. On first down at the 6-yard line, Purdue lined up in a tight formation with standout freshman receiver David on the left hash marks. Bell motioned into the backfield before the snap and Clark followed him.

On the snap, quarterback Jack Plummer faked the handoff to the deep back while Bell worked his way back into the left flat.

Plummer hit Bell at the hash marks. Caleb Tannor was in front of him unblocked while Clark was back near the end zone. As Tannor moved forward Clark rallied to the ball as well.

Bell made Tannor miss but Clark was there to clean up the mess.

Clark stopped Bell in his tracks and Tannor jumped in to finish off the play for a loss of two, Clark’s first tackle for loss.

Unfortunately, we’re going to end this film study on a bit of a rough note (though Clark’s mistake wasn’t overly costly for the Huskers).

Late in the second quarter, Clark lined up across from receiver Amad Anderson to the boundary side with a small cushion.

Anderson worked his way up field with Clark dropping back ahead of him. Tight end Brycen Hopkins ran his route parallel to Anderson’s, just inside the numbers, and Bootle picked him up. However, Anderson only ran 5 yards before sitting down while Clark kept dropping.

I’m not entirely sure if Clark thought Bootle needed the help with Hopkins or if he completely lost sight of Anderson and just kept running, but when Plummer hit Anderson at the 29-yard line Clark was all the way back at the 40.

Fortunately, Anderson had to go down to one knee to make the catch, which ended the play right there. But the officials didn’t rule that way until after a replay. Initially, the play went on.

Clark eventually figured out where the ball was and ran forward to try to make the tackle.

Clark got his hands on on Anderson but slid right off the receiver as he spun out of the tackle and kept moving forward.

Eventually the Huskers got Anderson down to the turf. The run after the catch didn’t end up counting, but the coaches still saw Clark compound one mistake with another. He got yanked for the rest of the period, though he did start the second half.

With the 6-foot-3 Lamar Jackson, Nebraska had a tall corner with the length and athleticism to match up with nearly any kind of receiver the opposition could throw out there. Nebraska still has a talented pair of experienced corners in Taylor-Britt and Bootle, but they’re 6-foot and 5-foot-10, respectively.

Braxton Clark, on the other hand, is 6-foot-4, and although he still needs some seasoning, he showed enough both in coverage and against the run as a redshirt freshman to be a big part of Nebraska’s secondary moving forward.

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