Syracuse football picked up a big transfer portal commitment on Tuesday when former Rutgers defensive back Alijah Clark pledged Orange. Clark spent one year at Rutgers after signing with the Scarlet Knights as part of the 2021 recruiting class. Despite being expected to start next season, Clark wanted to look for a new opportunity.
"I just wanted to go somewhere it was going to be fun to play football at," Clark said. "After having a discussion with the (Syracuse) coaches, I just felt like that's an environment I feel as though I'm going to thrive in."
After entering the portal, Clark announced offers from Louisville and West Virginia. He also took visits to Temple and Missouri. After speaking with the Syracuse coaches, however, he knew where he wanted to continue his college career.
"It was probably a couple days after I entered the portal," Clark said. "They pretty much said coming here is not a guarantee. Nothing is handed to you. Everything, you've got to work for. They said if you want to come here and compete to play, that's what I'm doing. I'm going there to compete to play and start and just make a better future for myself."
Clark's high school teammate is already at Syracuse in Freshman All-American Duce Chestnut. Clark says Chestnut wants him to experience life at SU himself.
"He actually didn't tell me anything," Clark said. "He wanted me to experience it myself. He said it's a cool experience it myself. It's a cool experience to figure out so he didn't want to spoil it for me."
While Duce may not have provided a lot of details about what life is like as a Syracuse football player, the two spoke about playing together at the collegiate level when they were being recruited as elite 2021 prospects.
"We used to talk about it in high school," Clark said. "We were supposed to go to college together, but it didn't work out that way the first go around. I think this is a great opportunity for me and my former teammate to reunite."
The decision to leave a program is rarely an easy one, especially when you are in line to start. But through that process and the transfer recruitment, Clark says his family was by his side.
"My family supports my decision 100%," Clark said. "Any decision I make is first run through my family. Those guys were my biggest supporters throughout this whole process."
Clark's lead recruiter at Syracuse out of high school and as a transfer target was Nick Monroe. The newly designated defensive passing game coordinator built a strong bond with Clark during the high school recruitment, which aided Clark's comfort with the Orange this time around.
"Relationships to me are always very important," Clark said. "Already having that connection from high school was also a plus one. When we got a chance to talk to each other after I entered the portal, it was just like reconnecting again."
Clark, who will arrive on campus this week in order to participate in spring ball, says Syracuse fans can expect excitement with him and Duce in the secondary.
"They can expect a new ounce of flavor coming in," Clark said. "They can see that duo back, me and Duce. That one two punch is back in action. There's a lot of excitement coming into this season."
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