College football: Clemente eager to help Weber State turn corner
Jordan Clemente was a force downfield during his high-school career at Tooele. He pulled down 29 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns during his junior year. His senior year was just as impressive.
But big numbers were easy to come by in a small market.
From the moment Clemente took his first spot on the field as a Weber State Wildcat, one thing was apparent.
"At this level, everyone is the biggest and the strongest," Clemente said. "Everyone is used to being the best."
Clemente fortunately has some size on his side. At 6 foot 4 and 220 pounds, the junior receiver has come into his own at his native position, pulling down 35 receptions for 268 yards this season.
"Jordan has all the things you can't teach: tall, large frame, good speed," first-year wide-receiver coach Craig Stutzmann said. "What sets him his apart is his desire and work ethic. With that combo, he has the ability to be one of the best receivers in the conference."
But Clemente hasn't always been a downfield target.
The Wildcats needed Clemente's size at the tight-end position last season. The transition to the line of scrimmage was a wide departure from playing in wide-open space.
To fill the role, Clemente had to put some weight on his already broad frame. He learned focus that comes with split-second decisions at the line of scrimmage.
Most important, he learned how to compete.
"I learned a lot about being physical and competitive," Clemente said. "You just have to not think and just go out and be relentless. It's all mental."
"That year certainly made him more physical," Stutzmann said. "After a year of blocking 260-pound guys, that 180-pound guy isn't quite so intimidating."
Those lessons, and some added size, have helped Clemente return to his native position this season.
But it hasn't been an easy road.
Clemente originally signed with the Wildcats after their Big Sky Conference championship in 2008. His Tooele teammate Triffon Gochis joined him in Ogden in 2009 as a walk-on with the same aspirations and soon earned a scholarship at the safety position.
"I wanted to be a part of a team that won rings and championships," Clemente said.
After redshirting his freshman year, Clemente was ready to make an impact. But the offseason coaching tumult after legendary coach Ron McBride's departure left an uncertain future for the Weber State football program.
Three years and two coaching changes later, Clemente has new goals based on the same optimism that brought him to Ogden.
He wants to put Weber State back on the map.
"Everyone knows BYU and Utah. Some know Utah State, but not Weber State," Clemente said. "We're off the same highway. We've got all the potential in the world."
Clemente and the Wildcats already are seeing the tide turn.
After months of uncertainly, the team has regained some of its never-give-up competitive drive. The wins have yet to come, but the pieces are there.
"Our guys have a lot of fight in them. There's a lot of pride," Stutzmann said. "In the coming years, this will be a very good football team."