The pass-rushing defensive end earned a spot on the team's four-man front on their third down defensive package, and appeared primed to become a force opposite junior college transfer Bruce Irvin.
Will Clarke was first introduced to the speed of collegiate football in the team's season opener against Coastal Carolina, where he was used heavily on third down plays. He had one tackle in the game, and played well against Coastal's quick passing attack, helping force some hurried throws. The optimism springing from that performance turned to some gloom, however when he suffered a high ankle sprain in the second game of the season when the Mountaineer came from behind to defeat Marshall.
"It was late in the third quarter," explained Clarke. "I was rushing up the field and I went to go inside and my foot got stuck. I tried to move out but I ended up getting caught up with another guy and that's what happened."
Ankle sprains can be one-week injuries, but can also evolve into longer-term issues, atnd that's what happened for the Pennsylvania native. Clarke has dressed for the past two contests, but has yet to see time back on the field since that September 10th game. After working on rehabilitating his ankle for weeks, Clarke claims to be almost back to where he was before the injury and is hoping that the coaches will be ready to get him back onto the field this Friday against Connecticut.
"Health wise, I'm like 90 or 95 percent," said Clarke. "The high ankle sprain took longer than I had expected. I thought I would be ready after about a week or two but the soreness, pain, and swelling didn't go away until two weeks after so it was like a four-week process. I've been good for awhile. It's just making sure that all of the swelling and pain is gone so that I won't reinjure it."
Although he has missed the team's last five games, in recent weeks Clarke has been preparing for each contest with the mindset that he would be returning to the game.
"I still have been preparing in case I am the last resort," said Clarke. "I prepare as the last resort factor like if anyone else comes out and I have to go in. I try to prepare as if I'm going to be starting."
Until he is put back into action, Clarke has been on the sidelines working on the mental aspects of his game. He isn't sure when he will make his return to the turf, but he is trusting in the coaches' judgment in deciding when he will be ready to play again.
"I'm just trying to sit there and learn more and work my way back in [to the game]. [I will be back] whenever the coaches gain their trust back in me and my ankle," said Clarke. "I guess it will be whenever they can continue to see that it's not bothering me when I run, cut, or make impact with another player."
During his recovery, Clarke has continued to remind himself of the two games that he was able to participate in thus far this season as he strives to get back on the field.
"It was very exciting playing in the first two games and seeing what kind of an experience that that was," said Clarke. "I'm just trying to think about that and working to get back to it."