CANTON It took just one practice at St. Lawrence University for defensive lineman Jesse Clark to feel a bit lost.
Clark, who played at Class D Ticonderoga in high school, found out how little he knew that first day four years ago.
A lot of the stuff, I had no idea what the coaches were talking about, Clark said. Coming from a small school, with only three coaches, we never got the specialized training. Coaches were saying, Dont get reached on this and I was realizing I didnt know what that means.
He may have started out a bit overwhelmed, but Clark is now completely comfortable on the football field and with six games left in his college career finds himself as one of the top players on the SLU defense.
The 6-foot-2, 285-pounder ranks third on the team with 25 tackles and has forced a fumble this season.
Jesse has improved immensely from when I got here, Saints coach Mark Raymond said. Hes gotten bigger and stronger and technically hes just a much better ballplayer. He can make plays as well. Hes not just a guy to eat up blockers. He can get off people and get to the quarterback and make plays on good running backs as well.
Clark was rarely called on as a freshman, backing up standout Gerard Bryant.
But midway through his sophomore year, he emerged as a starter and helped the Saints win the Liberty League championship and make the NCAA Division III Tournament, finishing with 29 tackles. Last year, his first full season as a starter, he had 39 tackles and said he first began to feel fully at ease on the field.
Now I automatically know what to do and how to do it, said Clark, who is on pace for 63 tackles this season. Now I just focus on getting off the ball.
Clark is more of a leader by example than a vocal leader, but he has earned the respect of his teammates, who have given him the nickname, Mountain Man because of his rural roots and the beard he grows throughout the season.
Hes very powerful, Raymond said. Hes a big, strong guy and he plays with great leverage and has a great motor. He never stops. Hes a resilient, tough guy and he has very good command of our defensive philosophy and is a real tough guy to move.
Clark is a history major and said he plans to return to SLU next year as a graduate student, but is not sure if he wants to be an assistant coach for his current teammates. He said he plans to teach high school history and find some sort of coaching position.
I would never want to be the head coach, Clark said just as Raymond entered the room. Thats too much work.
Former Indian River quarterback Zane Fish has started every game for St. Lawrence University this season but, after a strong showing on the final drive last week, sophomore Danny Metzgar is giving his classmate competition for the job.
Metzgar, a native of Natick, Mass., completed 8-of-10 passes in the final drive of the game and led the Saints to a late touchdown in a 30-21 loss to Union College last Saturday.
Fish has completed 51.2 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 662 yards with three touchdowns. But he also has thrown 10 interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 88.2. Metzgar has completed 10-of-14 passes for 89 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and his rating is 148.4.
Were going to give (Metzgar) a lot of reps this week and give him an opportunity to get a start, Raymond said on Tuesday. Were very happy with what he did and very proud of the way that group executed a (touchdown) at the end of that game. Zane is a really hard worker. He prepares great every week. He actually played very well, but it gets lost in three crucial interceptions.