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Mira Mesa's Clem Puts Weight Into Punting

November 06, 1987|STEVE BEATTY

Defensive lineman Bill Clem of Mira Mesa High School has all the characteristics to be a jumbo kicker: a 6-foot 4-inch, 220-pound body, quickness and a soccer background.

Clem punts instead of kicks, so he's not quite a full-fledged wide-body kicker.

But his punting statistics are just as impressive as the kicking of German Puentes, Brent Woodall and Joe Heinz, who are jumbo kickers with charter-member status in San Diego. Clem has averaged more than 40 yards per punt this year. He had punts of 53 and 57 yards against Point Loma two weeks ago.

Punting was new for Clem when he started playing football as a sophomore at Mira Mesa. It took some time to adjust to the ball's shape.

"When I first started punting, I just wanted to kick the ball," said Clem, a senior. "I didn't care, I'd hit the seams, the end, wherever. I'm just now getting the form down."

Coping with the pointed ends of a football was not the only frustrating part of that first season, Clem said. His teammates had to show him how to put on his shoulder pads. The Mira Mesa junior varsity coach told Clem one day to try playing defensive line. He figured the line suited Clem better than cornerback, where he had repeatedly failed to keep up with the smaller receivers.

Clem's response: "Sounds great, coach. Where is defensive line?"

But Clem found a niche that probably kept him in football when he became the junior varsity punter.

"We had an audition at the start of the season," Clem said. "I didn't kick it that far (25-30 yards), but I kicked it real, real high. It was natural for me because I knew how to kick from soccer."

Clem did not kick last season because senior Ray Rowe was already the established varsity punter. But this season, Clem won another tryout and is punting again.

He is also chasing quarterbacks again. Clem, who was on The Times' All-County second team last season as a tackle, recorded 17 sacks as a junior. He has 12 sacks in eight games this season.

Clem, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, said his speed helps him sack quarterbacks in addition to competing against smaller, quicker kickers.

"A smaller guy can react better because he will be quicker," Clem said. "But I can get off on the ball because of my speed."

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