So far, so good

CLEMSON - Third-year special teams coordinator Andre Powell faced the unenviable task of replacing C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford before the start of this season.

Spiller was a unanimous first-team All-American as a kick returner as a senior, just the third unanimous All-American in Clemson history. He finished with eight kick returns for touchdowns in his career, which is tied for the NCAA record.

Ford ranked sixth in school history in career kickoff return yards with 1,124 and is eighth in punt return yards with 479.

In stepped senior defensive back Marcus Gilchrist who's already returned four punts for a total of 95 yards—sixth-best in the nation.

He's also returned two kickoffs for 58 yards.

"You can't argue with what he's averaging on punt returns," Powell said.

But it could be better.

"Nobody is going to argue with 23.8, but really, with him and what have done, it should be 40.8," Powell said.

But he's not pleased with the penalty yards that have piled up through two games.

"We've had almost as many penalties in two games as we had all last year," Powell said. "We've got to clean that up. We've got some mental errors—missed assignments. We've probably left two or three touchdowns on the field."

Special teams haven't always been taken seriously during his tenure at Clemson. When Powell first arrived under former head coach Tommy Bowden, brining a guy over to special teams was like pulling teeth.

"When I first got here, kids didn't like playing on special teams. I think the second year here, they tolerated it. Last year, I think they started to like it a little bit. I don't think they still love it. We have a few guys that love it…it's getting better," Powell said.

Not only has Powell had to find new returners, he's also had to adjust for depth chart changes on offense and defense.

"We have a lot of guys returning on special teams, but a lot of those guys are moving into starting roles on offense and defense. I've really worked hard on making guys who start on offense and defense to only play on two special teams," he said. "We've had to get some guys ready to play on special teams that I'd rather have waited a little bit longer. It hasn't been as sharp as it needs to be."

The kicking has gone well so far. Punter Dawson Zimmerman is averaging nearly 50 yards a punt. Place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro is 11 for 11 on field goals and hit his only field goal attempt from 47 yards.

"I think he's wired the right way, mentally," Powell said of Catanzaro. "Physically, he's not as talented as Richard [Jackson] or [Spencer] Benton. Both of those guys have stronger legs. I think he's just focused. He concentrates. He's got a pre-kick routine. He steps the same, swings his leg the same. He's been more consistent."

Before nearly 90,000 fans on The Plans at Auburn, this weekend provides quite the test to show consistency in all phases of the special teams.

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