That special feeling

SENECA, S.C. - Danny Pearman has plenty of shiny tools to use when it's time to put one of the four special teams on the field.

Chief among those options is AP All-American Sammy Watkins, who was named to the team as an all-purpose player. In addition to his record-setting season as a wide receiver, Watkins returned 33 kickoffs for 826 yards with a touchdown and two punts for 12 yards.

This fall, he hopes to be involved more at punt returner.

"I think, last year, was how much he could handle on his plate…obviously, every time he touches it, he can change whatever," Pearman said. "Hopefully, we've got some other kids that can do the same thing. Last year, it probably took a little less out of him to do kickoff returns than punt returns."

DeAndre Hopkins handled most of the punts. He certainly is a proven, sure-handed receiver. But he returned 10 punts for 49 yards last season.

"We've got to improve there this year. That's one area of emphasis this fall camp," Pearman said.

Of the incoming freshmen, Germone Hopper is the only candidate to figure in as a return option.

Catanzaro has scored 194 points in two seasons.
Field goals
After an up-and-down redshirt freshman season in 2010, Chandler Catanzaro put together an All-ACC caliber effort a year later. The former walk-on picked up second-team all conference and was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Catanzaro connected on 22 of 27 field goal attempts last season, with a long of 47 yards.

"He came here and didn't have great success his first year, and he didn't spit the bit," Pearman said.

The Tigers' fourth-year assistant credited Catanzaro's approach to life away from football as a factor in his rebound in 2011.

"Some guys know how to go back and ‘do what got me here.' That's from everything from a regiment away from football, to how they practiced, to really being all in, from a lifestyle standpoint," Pearman said. "That's what Catanzaro has done. He went back and really worked hard last year, during the offseason. That's what he did this year."

Spencer Benton has spent most of his career handling the kickoff specialist job. He's punted twice for a 33-yard average and also attempted nine extra-points and a field goal.

The redshirt senior will compete with All-American freshman Bradley Pinion for punting duties this fall.

"Spencer Benton has been around here for us and done a really good job," Pearman said. "He's increased his role as a holder for us, has been a really good kickoff guy for us. I'm looking forward to him continuing those for us."

The Clemson coaching staff signed Pinion, hoping he would be ready to take the job during his first season on campus.

"We, fortunately, signed Bradley Pinion. He has, so far -- knock on wood -- done a good job up until now," Pearman said.

He added, "I'm looking forward to that battle increasing in August, and seeing where those guys are."

New to the book
The NCAA has implemented several changes to the rule book for this season. A majority of the changes apply to special teams play.

Pearman broke down a majority of the special teams' changes.

"This year they made the jumping over the three guys in the punt formation illegal. They'll treat that like field goal. Each year, they'll tweak that," he said. "They're trying to do away with the head on collision on kickoffs. They give those guys a five-yard head start, instead of starting way back and getting a 20-yard running start.

"They can't be at full-speed. And they moved it up five yards. They moved the actual kickoff up five yards so there's a better shot at a touchback. We'll have to see how the season goes. Does that create more touchbacks? The touchback comes out to the 25 this year. How much difference is that five yards?"

For a complete look at the new rules changes for this season, click here. Top Stories