Sizing up the ACC: Life after Catman, return 'spark' issues on special teams

Football - Adam Humphries returns a punt 45-yards

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Adam Humphries returns a punt 45-yards

Kickers.

Much like offensive linemen, it’s best when you barely know their name. They come in, make the kick and all is well. Otherwise? Well…

For Clemson the last four seasons, you have known Chandler ‘Catman’ Catanzaro’s name pretty well: from his trial-by-fire redshirt freshman campaign (14-of-22 on field goal attempts) to making All-ACC his final three years en route to school records in points, extra points and field goals of 40 yards-plus.

A redshirt junior, Ammon Lakip and his two career field goal attempts step into those big shoes. The Johns Creeks (Ga.) product was first a soccer recruit, but left Chattahoochee High, which produced former Tiger kicker Mark Buchholz and also quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, as one of the top-rated kickers in the nation.

We’ll see how prominent (or for his sake, not?) a role he plays in a Clemson special teams unit that’s lacked some punch outside of Catanzaro the last couple seasons.

Last year, the Tigers were top-50 in kickoff return defense (25th) and net punting (43rd), but on the return side, Clemson was far from it for a second-straight season, ranking as low as 106th on kickoffs.

Adam Humphries was one of five in the ACC to average double-digits on punt returns (10.6) on 20 attempts. UNC’s Ryan Switzer far-and-away paced the league with a 20.9 average, racking up five scores.

Charone Peake is the only kick returner listed on the depth chart, which should be an area of competition looking for a spark.

A look at the returning ACC leaders…

Active leaders - Kickoff return yards

Khalek Shepherd (Virginia) – 1,468

T.J. Thorpe (UNC) – 1,384

Duke Johnson (Miami) – 1,376

Active leaders – Punt return yards

Jamison Crowder (Duke) – 589

Ryan Switzer (UNC) – 502

Kyshoen Jarrett (VT) – 401

Active leaders – field goals

Ross Martin (Duke) – 33

Niklas Sade (NC State) – 30

Roberto Aguayo (FSU) – 21

Active leaders – yards per punt

Will Monday (Duke) – 43.6

Tommy Hibbard (UNC) – 43

Matt Yoklic (Pitt) – 43

To more accurately gauge special teams performance, both Phil Steele and Football Outsiders have useful measures. Most often their figures agree, but Clemson was one they didn’t last season, as you will see...

Projecting the ACC Special Teams

Tier 1

1) Florida State

Returning Kickers: K Roberto Aguayo (21-of-22 on FGs); P Cason Beatty (41.1 YPPG; 12 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 3 (1). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 27 (31).

2) Duke

Returning Kickers: K Ross Martin (13-19 on FGs); P Will Monday (42.7 YPP; 21 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 17 (20). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 40 (22).

3) North Carolina

Returning Kickers: K Thomas Moore (14-19 on FGs); P Tommy Hibbard (43 YPP; 25 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 13 (9). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 48 (47).

4) Louisville

Returning Kickers: K John Wallace (20-of-24 on FGs); P Ryan Johnson (41.1 YPP; 11 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 56 (122). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 28 (115).

Tier 2

5) Georgia Tech

Returning Kickers: K Harrison Butker (10-14 on FGs)

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 25 (101). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 22 (112).

6) Clemson

Returning Kickers: P Bradley Pinion (39.4 YPP; 24 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 39 (60). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 78 (26).

7) Miami

Returning Kickers: K Matt Gouldis (13-17 on FGs).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 10 (17). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 42 (17).

8) N.C. State

Returning Kickers: K Niklas Sade (19-23 on FGs); P Wil Baumann (42.1 YPP; 19 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 49 (33). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 68 (64).

9) Virginia Tech

Returning Kickers: P A.J. Hughes (44.1 YPP; 24 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 106 (37). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 75 (62).

Tier 3

10) Virginia

Returning Kickers: K Alec Vozenilek (12-of-15 on FGs); P Vozenilek (41.2 YPP; 23 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 76 (112). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 79 (123).

11) Boston College

Returning Kickers: N/A.

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 11 (47). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 14 (36).

12) Syracuse

Returning kickers: K Ryan Norton (10-15 on FGs); P Riley Dixon (42.2 YPP; 21 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 85 (99). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 77 (87).

13) Pittsburgh

Returning kickers: K Chris Blewitt (14-18 on FGs); P Matt Yoklic (43 YPP; 19 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 111 (62). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 103 (51).

14) Wake Forest

Returning kickers: K Chad Hedlund (8-12 on FGs); Alexander Kinal (40 YPP; 23 inside the 20).

2013 Phil Steele special teams rank (2012): 98 (124). 2013 Football Outsiders special teams rank (2012): 69 (102).

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