Tigers Hope New Coach Makes A Difference

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON --- When Andre? Powell replaced Burton Burns as Clemson?s new running backs coach earlier in the winter, he did not waste too much time before volunteering his services to the special teams unit.

See, Powell is what one might call an expert when it comes to special teams coaching. He has studied different methods and ways to make the most under appreciated unit on a football team solid fundamentally.

The last two years, while also coaching the running backs, he served as the special teams coordinator at North Carolina, improving the Tar Heels once dismal kickoff coverage into one of the nation?s best.

?Kickoff coverage is his,? Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said after Monday?s spring practice. ?Sorry Andre?, you got it.?

That?s okay, Powell doesn?t mind. The Lockhart native loves to coach special teams and it has showed with the results he has put on the field.

The Tar Heels ranked seventh in the nation in kickoff returns in 2005 and had two kickoff returns for touchdowns each of he last two years, the only ACC team to do that. In 2006 the Tar Heels were second in the ACC in kickoff return coverage.

?Some guys have a tendency not to study it,? he said. ?It takes time. You have to steal time. It is not easy and as a result, they resort to things they have been taught in the past. They are not sound and they are not up to date in technique and I?m a guy who has been a special teams coordinator.?

Clemson needs someone to help with a unit that struggled in almost every phase of the kicking game, except punting, in 2006. Clemson?s kick coverage was horrible, ranking near the bottom of the national leaders as opponents averaged 24.0 yards a return.

The Tigers also had three place kicks blocked and two more tipped at the line.

Before the start of spring practice Powell asked a graduate assistant to bring him the film of all kickoffs returned past the 30-yard line. The graduated assistant later returned with 22 tapes.

?I?m not trying to take jabs at whoever had it last year because that?s not my point,? Powell said. ?We had a lot less players (at North Carolina) and I?m not sure we had five that didn?t get past the 20.?

In fact, Powell said they had several returns where the opposition didn?t get past the 10-yard line.

?It?s all about attitude and understanding,? Powell said.

Powell will spend today and all of next week talking to friends of his in the NFL about ways he can help improve the problems Clemson had last season. He said he will talk to at least seven teams, including the Panthers, the Buccaneers, the Ravens and the Saints. He said that?s the way he stays updated on the changes and philosophies when it comes to the kicking game.

?Some of these things I have done, I would like to say they are my ideas, but they are not,? he said.

Powell said he will explain the different theories he has learned and is still learning to the rest of the coaching staff this spring.

?We have to get better and we have enough players to get better,? he said. ?I don?t know the circumstances about what happened last year, but I have looked at the tape and saw some flaws and I have seen things that are easily correctable.?

Bowden is banking on Powell getting things turned around on special teams. But the thing he likes the most about his new coach --- he is willing to try.

?A lot of times guys don?t want that extra reasonability,? Bowden said. ?Instead of hiding, he is asking. That?s the thing I like.?

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