FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas hadn’t heard of Hudson Clark. Hudson Clark sure heard about Arkansas.
Now Arkansas hears all about the walk-on freshman cornerback from Dallas.
Clark stuns the state relieving injured starter Montaric “Busta” Brown during the Razorbacks’ 21-14 SEC success at Mississippi State and starting for Brown in last Saturday’s controversial, 30-28, heartbreaking SEC loss at 13th-ranked Auburn.
He’s made nine tackles and broken up a pass these last two games with another major role anticipated in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. SEC West game televised on the SEC Network at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Family since birth rooted the former team captain of 2018 state high school champion Dallas Highland Park to Arkansas.
Hudson’s parents, Travis and Jennifer Clark, are University of Arkansas grads with roots to West Helena and Berryville.
Ronnie Clark, Hudson’s grandfather, coached the Berryville Bobcats for 27 years and grandfather Ronnie Clark coached Berryville High School for 27 years and was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“One side of my grandparents are from Berryville and the other ones are from West Helena,” Hudson said. “I’ve been an Arkansas fan my whole life. Both my parents went here. My grandparents are from here. So, just being able to step up on the field, I kind of saw my dreams unfolding right in front of me.”
Likely his dreams would have taken longer to unfold but for the worldwide COVID-19 coronavirus changing about everything in the world including football practice pecking orders.
Knowing the contagious COVID-19 could vastly alter roster availability in a single day, Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has practiced fourth-teamers nearly as much as those considered first-team.
The extra work with the reserves quickly convinced Pittman, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter that Clark ranks way above fourth team.
“I think that got me a huge benefit, because I was getting the same amount of reps as Busta and Jerry,” Clark said, “So whenever my number did get called I was ready because once they went down it was just next man up. I think just having a bunch of reps in camp really helped me because I was able to make some plays and gain coaches’ trust. This was really our time to show them what we had.”
The coaches had no qualms starting Clark and playing true freshman Khari Johnson in Auburn, Alabama, with regular cornerbacks Brown and Jerry Jacobs injured.
“We’re out there with Khari Johnson and Hudson Clark, and those two guys did a heck of a job,” Pittman said. “They’ve practiced well. They’ve come in and watched extra tape. They’ve basically made their position coaching believe in them by the way they act, the way they play, the way they practice.”
Was he nervous, starting against Auburn?
“I was a little nervous beforehand, but once you hit the field it’s just like any other game you played in,” Clark said. “My teammates like (starting safeties) Jalen Catalon, Greg Brooks, Joe (Foucha) – they’re all behind me and had my back. So I felt comfortable out there.”
Now comes the explosive Lane Kiffin coached Ole Miss Rebels led by national total offensive leading quarterback Matt Corral and totaling 125 points for three games, 51-35 and 63-48 losses to nationally No. 5 Florida and No. 2 Alabama sandwiching a 42-41 overtime victory over Kentucky.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen so far,” Clark said. “Their offense has put up a lot of points against really good defenses. We just have to take the challenge and come out every day and practice. They go really fast on offense, so we’re running to the ball. We’re getting set up. We’re trying to get ready for that. It’s going to be a really good challenge, but I think we’re ready.”