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Mid-season report card: Special Teams

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With No. 3 Clemson off this Saturday and halfway through the season, let’s take a look back at what the Tigers did right and wrong in the first seven games.

There is no doubt Clemson’s special teams made the difference in wins over Louisville and NC State. Artavis Scott’s 77-yard kickoff return to turn the tide in that game and set up the Tigers’ dramatic comeback. Last week, NC State missed three field goals, including one that was blocked by Christian Wilkins. The Tigers have also blocked a couple of extra points this year as well.

Here is how The Clemson Insider graded the Tigers’ special teams through seven games.

Punting

It has been a so-so year for Clemson punter Andy Teasdall, who is averaging just 38.4 yards per punt (35.6 net). He has shanked a couple of punts in key situations, including one in last week’s win over NC State, which set the Wolfpack up in decent field position to start its final drive in regulation. Clemson ranks 12th in the ACC in punting, and is averaging 35.7 in net punting. There is good news, though. Clemson is doing a decent job covering punts. Opponents are averaging just 7.4 yards per return and Teasdall is one of the best at forcing opponents to start inside the 20-yard line. Of his 28 punts, 12 have landed inside the 20-yard line. He has also 13 fair catches. Grade: C

Placekicking

Greg Huegel is 8 of 10 on made field goals, which ranks second in the ACC at 80 percent. He also ranks fourth in the ACC in made field goals with 1.14 per game. He also has improved with his PATs. Huegel missed just one PAT in 31 attempts this year. Last year, he missed five. Huegel’s longest field goal this season is 47 yards. Grade: A-minus

Kickoff return

When it comes to returning kickoffs, the Tigers were not bad last year, but this year, they have been much better. Clemson ranked 52 second last season with a 21.6 yards per return average. At the mid-season point, the Tigers are ranked 33rd with a 23.3 average. Artavis Scott ranks 29th nationally with a 25.5 average, and his 77-yard return against Louisville in the fourth quarter, is one of the plays that has allowed Clemson to stay undefeated. Grade: B-plus

Kick coverage

Kick coverage was the thorn in the Tigers’ side a year ago. Clemson ranked last nationally with three kick returns for touchdowns. The Tigers finished the year ranked 116 out of 127 FBS schools in 2015 with a 24.9 yards allowed average. But that’s all in the past. Head coach Dabo Swinney put all hands on deck to improve this area the most, and that’s exactly what has happened. No area on Clemson’s team has improved more than kick coverage. Using starters from both offense and defense to cover kicks, the Tigers rank fourth nationally in covering kicks at 15.4 yards and they have not allowed a kick longer than 30 yards. Grade: A-plus

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