Spring Report Card: Special Teams
It appeared Tommy Bowden had found his kickers in Jad Dean and Cole Chason, but neither had a spring to be proud. Dean is now being pushed by Stephen Furr, and Chason would be pushed, but no one has stepped up.
Chason can be one of the top punters in the ACC, but he lacks focus in the offseason. He is not consistent with his workouts, and at times it appears that he just does not take things serious enough. He showed last season, especially against Maryland, that he can be a difference maker. This spring he would have been a difference maker in a bad way. Last offseason, he was injured and could not kick for about three months. Chason needs to begin focusing on getting his form back.
Dean's struggles may be internal. He has no problems focusing, in fact he may focus a little too much. He puts a lot of emotion into every kick, and he is extremely hard on himself for missing a kick. Leg strength and work ethic are not questions with Dean. There is no question that he has the biggest leg since Chris Gardocki. He has proven that he can provide the accuracy as well, but he simply needs to stop playing mind games with himself.
The shape of the return game is not clear, as no one was able to see live kick-off returns. CJ Gaddis and Chansi Stuckey appear to be the top candidates to replace Justin Miller. Gaddis has the explosive first step that Miller had on returns, while Stuckey is the more elusive runner.
Kickers are often the brunt of the jokes, but with the parity that exists today, you have to expect to be in a war each week. Kickers win or lose close games. Right now, no one feels comfortable with Clemson's kicking game.