Special Teams Continue To Get Special Attention

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Time after time last season Clemson's offense put points on the board, only to see its kickoff coverage team allow huge return yardage.

That the Tiger defense still played as well as it did is a testament to the players and coaches on that side of the ball. Routinely asked to defend far too short a field, the Clemson defense still played well enough to keep the Tigers in almost every game.

Determined to fix the problem before 2007 commences, head coach Tommy Bowden and his staff spent much more time than usual organizing special teams play during the offseason. With the addition of running backs coach Andre Powell and his background in special teams, Bowden believes they have the right formula in place to be much better this season.

But there's no way of knowing for sure until the first time Clemson kicks off Labor Day evening against Florida State.

"We can't put 11 guys out there like (Florida State) will have returning the kick," Bowden said following Sunday's workout. "I put the best of the rest against our first team kickoff coverage. That's not as good as Florida State, but it's the best anybody can do."

Along with the extra time spent organizing special teams in the offseason, Bowden said he and his staff spent a great deal of time going over kickoff coverage in great detail during their annual hideaway just a week or so ago.

The coverage formation would be drawn on the board and then broken down, player by player, yard by yard. What is this guy supposed to do? What about that guy?

What happens 20 yards into coverage? Thirty yards?

Whatever the final answers are, one thing Bowden is quick to point out is that last season's troubles were not from poor work ethic from the players. In fact, he said, every member of the coverage team had what's known as a "special teams mentality."

"I don't think any of it was effort and desire. I just think I did a poor job," he said. "You watch us play the last few years and we usually play with pretty good effort. They are nice, close, competitive games. There haven't been too many blowouts. So the guys have been pretty competitive, and we have top-notch players on there.

"Every guy we had (on the coverage team) had that mentality. Most of the guys who have that personality - and offensive guys get offended when you say this - are defensive guys. And that's pretty much who we used."


Bowden was asked about the performance of Rashaad Jackson and
kicker Mark Buchholtz after practice.

"I singled out Rashaad Jackson in the team meeting on Friday night. He is an example of a
guy who has really worked hard in the off season. I singled him out
a lot in the spring and he continued to work hard over the summer.
His body fat percentage has dropped dramatically and he is at about
275 pounds (down from 290 last season). He has also shown good
leadership skills and has been outstanding academically."

Jackson made the ACC Academic Honor Roll for the 2006-07 academic year,
meaning he had at least a 3.0 GPA for the full year.

Bowden also said kicker Mark Buchholtz, who is attempting to
play soccer and football for Clemson this fall, has continued to

"We were aware him out of high school when Trevor was
recruiting him for soccer, and he has come out in the fall the last
two years. His performance in the spring was not a surprise. We
know he has a good strong leg. We are confident he can do the job."

Buchholtz has not kicked in a football game since he was a
senior in high school in 2003, but he was 3-3 on field goals in the
Spring game in April. He will be in his fourth year as a starting
midfielder on Trevor Adair's soccer team this fall. He has been a
starter on two Sweet 16 teams, including Clemson's Final Four team of
2005. His schedule will start to get very busy on August 13 when
soccer practice will also begin.

Clemson continues its preseason practice schedule Monday
evening. All practices are closed to the public, but the team will
hold its annual Fan Appreciation Day at Clemson Memorial Stadium on
Sunday, August 12 at 3:00 PM.

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