Clemons Tries to Stay Ahead of Curve

Sophomore QB makes progress at camp.

August 15, 1998

TURLOCK - The learning curve for any college freshman can be steep. But for a rookie college quarterback, the prospect can be quite daunting.

Besides the usual adjustments faced by students when they first walk onto campus, a new signal caller must also become so familiar with the offensive system that he can recite the playbook from cover to cover from memory, knowing every intricacy by heart.

There's no doubt then that Cal sophomore quarterback Samuel Clemons was a little intimidated when he arrived at his first training camp a year ago. Despite being at Cal for summer school in 1997 and being around the football facilities for six weeks before fall practice started, Clemons quickly realized that he had a long way to go once workouts got underway.

"I think it's extremely hard the first year," the 6-2, 210-pounder from El Dorado Hills said. "I did well in Summer Bridge and I was starting to learn the offense. But when I came to Turlock, it seemed everybody knew everything already. It was hard to take it in all at once."

Clemons spent his season at Cal as a redshirt, but continued to study the Bears complicated West Coast offense. Then, during spring practice last March, he began to get many more opportunities to work with the first and second units and show off his rocket arm. Now, Clemons is in his second camp firmly entrenched as the backup to returning starter Justin Vedder.

"Sam has made a lot of progress and come a long way from last fall," said Cal quarterback coach Troy Taylor. "He's more familiar and more confident with our offense. He still has some work to do and keep up his learning curve."

Clemons, too, realizes that he doesn't have complete mastery of the system. But he also knows that he must continue to work hard every day if he is to be prepared to see his first live action as a Golden Bear this fall, a prospect that the Cal coaches hope to give him early in the year.

"I'm learning to read defenses and trying to understand our offense even more," Clemons said. "I know I can throw the deep ball, but I need to work on the short throws. I'm more confident this year, so now it's a matter of letting my physical attributes take over."

Clemons' intensity and aggressive approach on the field perhaps stems from the fact he comes from a family with a defensive tradition. His grandfather, Raymond Clemons, was a four-year linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, while his father played noseguard in college and his uncle was a collegiate defensive end.

"Sam is very physical and extremely strong," Taylor said. "To be great quarterback, you need to be accurate, make good decisions and be very disciplined. And those attributes are all part of his personality."

Clemons' best days definitely seem to be ahead of him. He was a late bloomer at Oak Ridge High School, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,141 yards, 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions his senior year. He also was a good enough athlete to have been offered a scholarship to play baseball in college after earning first team league honors as a third baseman.

But now, his concentration is strictly on football and getting ready to play in 1998. As long as he keeps up his learning curve, Clemons knows that he will be as prepared as he can be when his time comes to lead the Bears onto the field.