Andre Powell: Man on a Mission

CLEMSON – With the talent level on the Clemson football team, new assistant coach Andre' Powell says there's absolutely no reason why the team's kickoff coverage should be one of the worst in the nation. And this spring, he's determined to make sure that's no longer the case.

Powell, who replaced Burton Burns as the running backs coach, will handle coaching the kickoff coverage and kick return teams this season. He's also expected to handle punt return duties, but right now, his primary goal is to improve the Tigers' 113th ranking in kickoff coverage.

"Obviously Clemson wasn't as good on kickoff coverage as they would like to have been," Powell said after practice Monday night. "Whether it cost them a game or not, who knows? Nevertheless, you've got to get better and you've got to get the players to be better."

Simply put, Powell was stunned when he first saw film of last season.

He saw mistakes that were easy to fix and he also saw outdated techniques that needed to be changed immediately.

He said a common mistake is for coaches not to stay up to date on all the advances in special teams.

"Some guys have a tendency not to study it," Powell said. "It takes time and you have to steal time and it's not easy. And as a result, they do things that they were taught years ago, things that aren't sound. They're not up to date in technique.

"I asked the (graduate assistant) here to give me all the cutups of the kickoffs that got beyond the 30. Well, there were 22 of them. And I'm not trying to take jabs at whoever had it last year, that's not my point. (At North Carolina) we had a lot less players and I'm not sure we had five get beyond the 20."

Powell said the biggest problem was that the kickoff coverage team wouldn't adjust to the change of directions or the overloading of one side or the other, which caused the Tigers to constantly be outmanned.

"They get outflanked and they didn't read," Powell said. "It's a matter of running down, reading, redirecting and knowing the proper way to take on blocks and when to use your hands."

One aspect that was constantly preached by the coaches last year was for the players to stay in their designated lanes. They routinely said that the players not staying in their assigned lanes led to the breakdown in coverage.

Powell said that's not the case at all.

"You will never hear me say ‘lanes,'" he said. "You will never hear me say ‘lanes' in terms of being good. You will hear me say redirect. Lanes are no good, unless you're driving down Interstate 85, then you stay in your lane."

Powell is also one that understands what it takes to correct messes in special teams. He took over as special teams coordinator at North Carolina and improved the Tar Heels from one of the worst kickoff coverage units in the coutnry to No. 14 last year.

He expects similar results at Clemson.

"Coach (Tommy) Bowden has told me I could have the pick of personnel," Powell said. "So, if you get good personnel and you get good kicks, I feel confident we'll be one of the better kickoff teams in the country. …

"I'm a guy that has been a special teams coordinator and two years ago, we were 113th in the country. Some of the things we did were so common sense, but it just took me spending a couple of days with a couple of coaches and explaining kickoff coverage theory.

"I want to win. I haven't been in a situation in a long time where I've got a chance to win them all. At North Carolina, we had a chance to win some. We've got a chance to win them all. And playing great on special teams will help you win them all then let's do it."

Powell will spend Tuesday meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers special teams coach, before talking and meeting with coaches from the Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints.

"With the guys we've got, that thing ought to be good," Powell said. "It ought to be a work of art. I'm excited about it."

Monday Practice Notes
Barry Humphries, Bobby Hutchinson and walk-on Ben Ramsey continue to compete for the starting center spot and Bowden is really hoping one of those three can get the job done instead of having to move guard Thomas Austin. Bowden said he will have a better understanding of what he might have to do after Wednesday's practice when there are live inside drills between the offensive and defensive lines. …

Bowden also said safety DeAndre McDaniel "has jumped out defensively." … Safety Chris Clemons didn't practice due to visiting his sick grandmother in an Atlanta hospital. … Safety Michael Hamlin gets his walking cast off Tuesday. …

Bowden said he likes the way tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller have taken charge from a leadership standpoint. … Bowden said he will have a better grasp of the punting, placekicking and kickoff duties after Wednesday when the team goes live. Redshirt freshman Richard Jackson is in the hunt for all three jobs. Bowden said he's never had one player do all three. …

Bowden said he's been impressed with how quarterback Cullen Harper has been able to translate what he's learned in the classroom to executing it to the football field. Harper has been getting four plays per series, while Tribble Reese gets three and Michael Wade and Willy Korn each get two. …

Bowden will decide after spring practice whether or not to name Powell as the special teams coordinator. … Bowden said freshman tight end Brian Linthicum will not redshirt and will receive playing time. Top Stories