Dabo Swinney is looking for more from Tigers' punt return game

'We have to catch ball consistently - keep our eyes on the ball. It's all fundamentals'

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins drops a punt in the second quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins drops a punt in the second quarter.

Before the season is over and done, Dabo Swinney would like to see his Tigers average 10 yards per punt return.

But first, Swinney said on Tuesday, they need to catch the football.

The Tigers had two muffed punt returns in their opener against Georgia - a drop by Sammy Watkins, and then a moment of chaos that ended with walk-on C.J. Jones saving the day and returning a live ball from the end zone.

Against South Carolina State, Bulldogs' punter Nick Belcher kept the Tigers at bay with a string of side-footed, rugby-style punts that had the Tigers scurrying to get away from the football.

"We have to catch ball consistently - keep our eyes on the ball," Swinney said. "It's all fundamentals."

Swinney said that on Watkins' drop against Georgia, "he was trying to do too much."

"It was a definite fair-catch situation, and he wants to return it," Swinney said. "He's a guy wanting to make a play, but it's a short kick, and guys are right there on him.

"He just needed to fair-catch, keep his eye on the ball, and finish the play. But he's peeking, looking up and looking down, and the next thing you know, he doesn't have good fundamentals - he doesn't have a good foundation underneath him - and he drops it."

The S.C. State game brought a different challenge.

The Tigers had no punt return yards against S.C. State, and had just four yards in the opener against Georgia.

"It was kind of hard to get anything on Saturday," Swinney said. "It was rugby, with the ball on the ground, and it's hard to go field those balls. The ball's bouncing and you have no idea how it's going to bounce and you just have to get away from it.

"Still, when all's said and done, we want to average 10 yards."

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