Clemson Special Teams 2003 vs. 2004

by - Radio Host -

In 2002, Clemson was special teams away from having a huge road win over Georgia. The special teams showed improvement in 2003 in all facets. Aaron Hunt was very clutch for the Tigers by going 18 of 26 with his field goals. He will be the hardest player to replace on the special teams unit. Cole Chason was average early but closed out strong and out kicked All-American Dustin Colquitt in the Peach Bowl. Here is a look at Clemson Special Teams 2003 vs. 2004 1) Aaron Hunt, a four-year starter and all-time leading scorer, must be replaced at place kicker. All eyes were on rising sophomore Jad Dean in the spring. Dean had impressed fans with his leg strength on kickoffs in '03. Dean however struggled with accuracy, while Stephen Furr was very consistent from 45 yards in. Furr won the battle in the spring, but this will be a battle that will go down to the 3:30 p.m. kickoff versus Wake Forest. Cole Chason threw his name into the battle, but Coach Bowden wants more consistency in his punting before Chason will be allowed back into the placekicking mix. Ryan Charpia will relieve Chason on holding duties this Fall. On placekicking, Bowden's strategy is take the guy who is most consistent, and if the range is not there he will keep the ball in Whitehurst's hands on fourth down in opposing teams territory. At punter, Chason averaged 38.6 yards per punt last season in his first season as the Tigers' punter. Chason will look to build on his strong Peach Bowl performance in the 2004. Dean will handle kickoffs again, and look for more of the directional kicking that he was asked to use last season. 2) The return game was very valuable to the Tigers last season. Derrick Hamilton's 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against UNC was a crucial play in the eight point victory. Hamilton's departure leaves a void in the return game, but the replacements are standing in line to join Justin Miller in the return game. The player that most fans cannot wait to see on the field is C.J. Gaddis. Gaddis has an explosive gear and runs with great power, that had Burton Burns lobbying for him at running back. Coach Burns was not alone and wanting the phenomenal athletic abilities of Gaddis in his department. Gaddis struggled fielding kicks in the spring, but if he can adjust he could be very special and valuable player to the return game. Chansi Stuckey and Kelvin Grant are two possibilities on the return team. Grant is a player fans have not seen much of, but he definitely has the skills to be a return threat. For Stuckey, he is a team-oriented player who will do what it takes to help his team get a victory. Stuckey's open field abilities remind the staff of Hamilton. Special teams is a major part of the game. At least one game a year, special teams is put in a situation where they must play well in order for the Tigers to pull out the victory. The return game is very talented. The staff feels comfortable at punter with Chason. Placekicking must become more consistent or you will see a high number of fourth down attempts for the Tigers this season. The battle between Dean and Furr should make one if not both very solid by the start of the season. If the special teams struggle early, you will hear the fairweather critics outcry for a special teams coach yet again especially with Beamer ball now being an ACC foe.

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