Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood: Amari hoping to excel in return game this season


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Rodgers hopes to make a splash in the return game this season
Rodgers hopes to make a splash in the return game this season

CLEMSON — Amari Rodgers wants to be a major contributor this season, both on special teams and at the wide receiver spot, so while many of his teammates went to the beach during spring break, Rodgers went to work.

The Clemson coaching staff told Rodgers during the first half of spring practice that he will be the guy on punt return and kickoff return duty this season, and Rodgers knew he needed help. His technique, as he tells it, was all wrong.

When in doubt, ask a pro.

“I used to be a side-to-side guy in high school (in terms of punt return technique),” said Rodgers, whose father is Tennessee football legend and current Southern California assistant coach Tee Martin.
“I asked a former guy who played for my dad at USC (Southern Cal), Nelson Agholor — I was with him during spring break — and I asked him: ‘Yo, bro, I saw you took a lot of kicks and punts to the house.’
‘“What do you do?”

Agholor, who is a receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles and was quarterback Nick Foles’ favorite target in February’s Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots, was happy to help Rodgers.

“He was like, ‘See it and hit it. Get the ball and go north. East and west doesn’t work for you,’ so that’s one thing I’ve put in my head,” Rodgers said. “I see one slight hole, and I’m going to hit it.”

Rodgers came back to practice after the break with a new technique and a new attitude, something that quickly caught the attention of the Clemson coaches.

“Amari Rodgers has been on fire this spring,” co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said. “He’s very business-like. He practices like a pro, goes about his business and is very serious about it. He’s disappointed if he doesn’t do it exactly right and he gets in the film room to be a master of the details.”

Rodgers was one of the stars of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class and he arrived on campus physically ready to play. He earned playing time in 14 of Clemson’s 15 games in 2017, catching 19 passes for 123 yards.

His return duties were limited, however, as the coaches went with either Ray-Ray McCloud or Hunter Renfrow at punt return and a bevy of players at kickoff return. Rodgers had two punt returns for 15 yards and one kickoff return for 36 yards.

With McCloud moving on, the coaches want to see what Rodgers and freshman Derion Kendrick can bring to the return game.

“It means a lot to me to take over (the punt return game),” Rodgers said. “I want to take full advantage of that.”

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