Making the Grade: Clemson was ‘special’ on special teams

Making the Grade: Clemson was ‘special’ on special teams

Football

Making the Grade: Clemson was ‘special’ on special teams

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Often overlooked in a football game is the play of the special teams. If a team is solid in the kicking game, usually it is taken for granted.

Such can be said about Clemson’s kicking game in 2020. The Tigers were not great in special teams this past season, but they were good. They were good in every area, too. Freshman defensive tackle Bryan Bresee even blocked a kick.

Kicker B.T. Potter was 18-of-23 in in field goals this past year. However, three of those misses were not charged to him. Clemson allowed Miami to block three kicks in the Oct. 10 game, all breakdowns in protection.

After the Miami game, Potter made 13 of his last 15 kicks, including 12 of his last 13. He was 4-for-4 in the Tigers’ game at South Bend. Potter ranked second in the ACC in scoring with 115 points, as he also made 61 of his 62 PAT attempts.

Potter’s longest kick this season was 52 yards and he was 8-for-10 from 40-plus and 2-3 from 50-plus.

As for kickoffs, Potter’s leg is one of the best weapons in the ACC. Of his 85 kickoffs, 73 were went for touchbacks. That is an average of 86 percent.

Another special teams’ weapon for Clemson was punter Will Spiers. The graduate student averaged 44.0 yards per punt in 2020, with a long of 64 yards. He had 12 punts that carried longer than 50 yards, while 17 of his 21 attempts to pin opponents inside their own 20-yard line was successful, an average of 81 percent.

As for kick returns, Travis Etienne and Lyn-J Dixon were two of the best in the ACC. If they qualified, they would have ranked third and fourth respectively in the conference.

Etienne averaged 23.6 yards on eight returns, including a long of 40 yards, while Dixon averaged 23.3 yards with a 52-yard return for a long.

Amari Rodgers’ 7.1-yard average on nine punt returns would have been good enough for third in the ACC if had enough returns to qualify. He had a long of 21 yards. Etienne returned one punt this past season and it went for 44 yards.

As a team, Clemson averaged 9.5 yards per punt return, which ranked fourth in the ACC.

The Tigers did not allow a punt or a kickoff to go for a score in 2020, which is always good. The longest punt return an opponent had was 18 yards and the longest kick return was 39.

The only real negative came in the Miami game, where the three blocked kicks could have cost them the game. Those breakdowns did not show up again the rest of the season in the kicking game, though Spiers did have a punt blocked later in the year.

Grade: B

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