Coach Burns: Ford Not Just a Kick Returner

Jacoby Ford may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but he's not too far from it. And that's why he's going to get a chance to make an immediate impact with the Clemson football team in 2006.

Ford, who enrolled earlier this month, will get to test that blazing speed, which has consistently been clocked in the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and less, during spring practice. And if things go as expected, at the very least he should be returning kicks and/or punts next season.

"He'll have an opportunity based on what he showed at Fork Union (Military Academy)," said Tigers running backs coach Burton Burns, who recruited Ford to Clemson. "I would say he would have a chance to play based on what he did at receiver as well. We know he can return kickoffs and punts, but we think based on what he did last year at Fork Union that he could be a good receiver as well."

Ford, who stands a slight 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, had five returns for touchdowns at Fork Union. He also had 14 receiving touchdowns.

Burns isn't quite sure why the West Palm Beach, Fla., native wasn't highly recruited.

"That's a good question," he said. "Maybe they thought he wasn't going to qualify or maybe they thought he was too small. It could be a variety of things. I don't really know. I'm not sure why a lot of people didn't jump on him."

It was almost a year ago when Burns first took notice of Ford.

During the spring combine at Fork Union, Ford, who was the Florida High School state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as a senior at Cardinal Newman, showed that blazing speed with a 40-yard sprint in the 4.25 range.

Burns was instantly hooked.

"He caught everybody's attention with the time he ran," Burns said. "Everybody knew he could run well, but no one knew what he could do with the pads on."

As Ford matured, folks quickly found out. And as he gets bigger, more things will be expected of him.

But even if he doesn't blossom into a thick wide out, Burns said that's not really much of a concern.

"If he were an offensive lineman, it would be a problem," he said. "But those at skill positions, I don't think it really matters. If he's athletic and can run as well as that kid can, I think that overcomes size."

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