Young, athletic talent making Clemson's special teams deeper, better

Dabo Swinney: 'We’ve just got a lot more guys that can run, and they’ve given us very, very quality depth'

Clemson's Ben Boulware covers on a kickoff play against N.C. State at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Ben Boulware covers on a kickoff play against N.C. State at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Clemson ranks eighth in the ACC in kickoff returns and 11th in punt returns.

But don't let those statistics fool you: Dabo Swinney is convinced the Tigers are playing winning special teams football, across the board.

Sure he'd love a couple of long returns for touchdowns - something the Tigers became accustomed to during the C.J. Spiller years.

But for now, Swinney is happy with the play of the Tigers' various special teams units, which have been strengthened by the program's recent recruiting success.

"I really like where we are special teams-wise - we've had just very, very solid performances with our teams this year," said Swinney during the ACC coaches' teleconference on Wednesday. Last year we were very thin depth-wise, and a lot of your special teams are made up with DBs, linebackers, those types of bodies, and we were very thin.

"But we got a lot more youth on our team this year, and a lot of those guys have really impacted us on special teams, Ben Boulware and Jadar Johnson, Jayron Kearse, Cordrea Tankersley, on and on and on. We’ve just got a lot more guys that can run, and they’ve given us very, very quality depth."

Having non-starters available for special teams alleviates the pressure on front-line players.

"Whereas last year we were really having to play some of our guys that were playing a bunch of minutes, or a bunch of plays on offense or defense, and they were also having to play a bunch of plays on special teams," Swinney said. "We’ve been able to relieve some of those guys in some areas this year, and I think that’s really helped us.

"We’ve been very solid, very solid with our protection, both punting and kicking. Our coverage has been good. Our kickoffs have been much more consistent. I think (Bradley) Pinion has been outstanding. His punts have been tremendous. We’ve been able to create field position, especially pinning some people inside the 20."

In the return game, the Tigers have dealt with limited opportunities.

"A lot of that is just a function of the new rules and balls being kicked deeper," Swinney said. "I think we’ve improved punt return-wise. We still don’t get a ton of opportunities. We’ve seen some teams that do a lot of the rugby kicks and the ball gets on the ground. I thought last week was probably our best week as a return game. We had one big return called back because of a roughing of the punter.

"Overall, just real pleased with where we are. I definitely think our special teams have a chance to be a difference maker for us each week."

Swinney believes it's "just a matter of time" before the Tigers break a long return.

"Last year was the first year since I’ve been a head coach that we didn’t take one to the house," he said. "There’s no question we’ve got good skill, and it’s just a matter of time before we have that big, explosive play from a return standpoint. I like where we are right now."

© 2013 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features