QB Jayden Clemons has found a home on the high plains
LARAMIE -- One of the Cowboys' most valuable players last Saturday night didn't even make the trip to Colorado Springs.
He watched the game on television like most of you.
His work was completed over the previous two weeks in practice, preparing his teammates for Air Force's vaunted triple-option attack. He obviously did a pretty good job, too. The Falcons, who average nearly 370 yards per game on the ground and better than 6.5 yards per carry, were held to just 211 rushing yards and an average of 3.3 against the Cowboys.
That made Jayden Clemons smile.
The final result -- a 24-14 loss -- didn't.
"Their triple option didn't work as effective as it had been," said Clemons, who served as the Cowboys' speedy scout team quarterback. "It was good to see them stopping it, or at least holding them to minimal gains. They didn't get gashed, so it was good to see."
The sophomore said he spotted Air Force's offensive tendencies play after play. With so many reps of his own in that scheme, he said he could tell which formations would go to the fullback or be pitched around the corner.
Wyoming's signal callers typically wear blue jerseys in practice. That means he is not to be tackled or hit.
Clemons didn't sport the blue in preparation for this one.
"It's definitely not the easiest or most fun to mimic," he said of Air Force's offense. "It was tough. It's physical and you have to play smart with good technique.
"... I was lowering my shoulder plenty of times, too."
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl spoke about the importance of the scout team quarterback the week before playing the Falcons, though he didn't want to mention who was running the show.
Now we know.
And you shouldn't be surprised.
In two seasons at Skyridge High School in Lehi, Utah, Clemons rolled up 1,393 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns while leading his team to back-to-back 5A state title game appearances.
The kid can throw a little bit, too.
Clemons amassed 4,568 yards through the air and tossed 57 touchdowns during his prep career. He said it could have been even more. By halftime, Clemons and the rest of the starters were typically on the bench. The scores were lopsided. The wins were nearly automatic.
His recruitment, well, that was a different story.
Not one program came calling.
Not in-state teams like BYU, Utah or Utah State. Not even Weber State, Southern Utah or Snow College.
"I don't really know," he said of why he wasn't sought after. "It's not in my hands to control. It is what it is."
Surely it couldn't be Clemons' numbers, right? The 6-foot-1, 208-pound all-state selection felt like he had done enough. In the classroom, he was taking care of business, too. In fact, he graduated early.
"Yeah, it was a little bit disappointing," he said. "We put in all the work in three years -- myself and a few other seniors and juniors -- to turn that team around. The first year the team lost in a play-in game.
"... I feel like my numbers could've been doubled if I played every snap."
Eventually Clemons accepted a walk-on offer to the University of Utah. He enrolled early. That, he hoped, would give him a head start on learning the offense and adjusting to life in a Power-5 program.
"I'm very glad I made that decision," he said.
Speaking of decisions, after six months, the Utah coaching staff moved Clemons from under center to the defensive secondary. They saw him as a safety. He made the adjustment and embraced the role, but his heart told him something else.
He was a quarterback.
Clemons said he remembered watching the 2018 NFL Draft with his father, Freddie Clemons. Former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was the seventh selection.
"I had a conversation with my with dad and he told me I didn't need to go to a P5 school," he said. "You can go to Wyoming, ball out and get attention from scouts."
Clemons said UW was on the list of the dozens of emails he sent to schools before his senior season. After a year in Salt Lake City, Clemons traveled to Laramie on an unofficial visit. He was in the NCAA Transfer Portal and looking for a new home, a place that would give him a chance to showcase his skills under center.
He spoke to then-offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. Nothing was a certainty, Clemons said, but the "seeds were planted."
Those grew into an offer from the Cowboys. Clemons could walk on and attempt to earn a spot at his natural position.
"They were the first and only Division-I program to give me an offer," he said of UW. "I just took it. It's not far from home and they play good football and have a great staff. It was not a bad option."
Clemons is currently in a battle for the third quarterback spot with Hank Gibbs and Gavin Beerup. Sean Chambers is fully entrenched as the starter. His backup, Levi Williams, started five of the team's six games in 2020.
If the spring game is any indicator, Clemons has the ability to run Tim Polasek's pro-style offense.
Clemons was the White team's leading rusher with 56 yards on just four carries. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 26 yards and connected with Wyatt Wieland on a 19-yard scoring strike.
Clemons is simply in search of a chance.
He found that here on the high plains.
"I wanted the opportunity to play," he said. "I'm very grateful."
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