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A quarantine full of home-cooked meals led to favorable weight gain for linemen

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Alec Anderson (No. 70) has been practicing on the right side of the line as UCLA football looks to replace Jake Burton, who transferred to Baylor during the summer. (Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Sam Connon

Oct. 20, 2020 3:56 p.m.

When Duke Clemens went home to Hawaii during the COVID-19 pandemic, he tried to make the most of it, both on the beach and at the dinner table.

“Being in Hawaii, there’s a lot of great food over there, so I was able to gain some pounds during this pandemic,” Clemens said. “Getting in the ocean again and just getting my body feeling right, going and just calming down and regrouping myself and becoming more mature, just knowing what I have to do – time by yourself really makes you think and helps you grow.”

The sophomore flew home like many of his UCLA football teammates, and he said he used the time back in Kailua to reflect on himself and improve as a leader. Clemens is one of just two regular starters returning to the Bruins’ offensive line this season, despite being one of the younger faces in the unit.

Clemens started eight games at left guard in 2019, but he said he has made the move to right guard in fall camp ahead of UCLA’s season opener against Colorado on Nov. 7.

The interior lineman said gaining good weight was one of his main goals in the offseason, and while he said he achieved it, he also admitted there is still room to improve now that he isn’t getting home-cooked meals as often.

“I’ve definitely been on the search for a lot of Hawaiian food,” Clemens said. “My parents, they send me local food, so I’ll be cooking it up in the apartment, so I’m not too worried about looking out right now.”

Clemens is balancing his own cooking with the meals provided by the nutrition staff at Wasserman Football Center, but the sophomore said he’ll always be biased toward his home state’s cuisine.

Redshirt sophomore Alec Anderson, who started three games at guard and tackle last season, said he enjoyed his mom’s cooking during quarantine as well, and that he can already see the additional weight making a difference for Clemens and redshirt sophomore lineman Baraka Beckett.

“Home cooking’s a great thing,” Anderson said. “You can’t get enough of your mom’s food right now, and so (Beckett) put on some good weight and so did (Clemens). I mean, they’re all moving great. It’s not like they’re looking sluggish or anything.”

Clemens was listed at 267 pounds on the official 2019 roster, but he now weighs in at 290. Beckett also went from 286 pounds to 310.

While Clemens said he misses the daily authentic Hawaiian meals, the chefs who cooked for him – his parents – are trying their best to make it out to the Rose Bowl for a few of his games.

“My parents ask me every day if they’re allowed to come up to watch some games, so hopefully they’ll be able to come and enjoy the game,” Clemens said. “Even if they aren’t allowed to come, I would love to see them on the weekends and things like that. Home is kind of far so any chance I get, I’m grateful.”

New starters settling in

Anderson said he has been lining up at right tackle with the starters so far in fall camp, meaning he and Clemens are set to man the right side of the line this season.

“It’s kind of natural, I feel like,” Anderson said. “We just know where each other are at in pass (protection) and run blocking and it’s going good, and every day we’re building on that chemistry.”

Jake Burton was expected to be the Bruins’ starting right tackle in 2020, but he transferred to Baylor in August, back when the Pac-12 season wasn’t scheduled to start until January at the earliest.

Both Anderson and Clemens said their contact with Burton has been limited since he left for the Lone Star State, but they both said the line is up and running as expected, regardless of his absence.

“We just know each other’s personalities and each other’s tendencies and that really helps when we’re working new teammates in,” Clemens said. “We really can communicate well and nothing is ever too much to understand when we’re trying to teach a guy because we’re all trying to get better and be the best we can be as an offensive line.”

Anderson, Clemens, redshirt junior center Sam Marrazzo, redshirt sophomore guard Jon Gaines II and sophomore tackle Sean Rhyan are the current starters in practice, with graduate transfer guard Paul Grattan rotating in at left guard at times, as well.

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Sam Connon | Sports senior staff
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
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