In fact, neither has returned a punt for a touchdown since Ford went 92 yards for a score against Florida Atlantic in the 2006 season-opener. In the three years Spiller and Ford have been returning punts, Clemson has averaged no better than 9.4 yards a return and that came in 2007.
Last year, the Tigers ranked fifth in the ACC in punt returns and 66th
nationally with an 8.5 average. Central Michigan led the country with a
20.5 yards return average and Miami led the ACC with an average of 11.4
And though he holds the record for the most touchdowns greater than 50
yards in school history with 12, Spiller has never taken a punt back
further than 38 yards, and that came in 2007.
"Since I have been here, we have not go the productivity we should have
gotten with the two guys we have returning the ball," special teams
coordinator Andre Powell said. "We are going to change some of things we
do. We are going to change how we coach it, how we teach it and how we rep
it and hopefully we will see a little bit more productivity."
In fairness, though, it wasn't much better before Powell took over in
2007. In 2006, the same year Ford returned a punt 92 yards, the Tigers
averaged just 7.6 yards a return and in 2005 it was even worse. Clemson
averaged just 6.9 yards then.
"There is no reason why we should not be one of the top return teams in
the league," Powell said.
Luckily, Clemson has been a little bit better in terms of kickoff returns,
but it can stand to improve there as well. Last year, the Tigers ranked
fourth in the ACC and 34th nationally with a 22.4-yard average. Spiller,
however, was one of the best in the country as he ranked second in the ACC
and 14th nationally with a 27.16 average.
Spiller has had much better success at returning kicks than punts. He has
returned three for touchdowns and is averaging better than 25 yards a
return in his career. Like Spiller, Ford has also had success returning
kicks with a 25-yard average and one touchdown.
Then there is Marcus Gilchrist, who is averaging 33 yards per return. He
had a 66-yard return against Duke two years ago in Durham, N.C. and last
year he returned a kickoff 46 yards against Georgia Tech and probably
would have scored had he not cramped up when he broke into the open field.
"He has a real good knack for kickoff returns, but the problem with
Gilchrist is that he is so good up front when it comes to blocking,"
Powell said. "He may be our best guy up front. If you move him back to
return kicks, then you are going to get a guy who is probably not as good
as C.J., and then you are putting a guy up front that isn't as good as
"You weaken yourself at two places, but he can return the ball."
Crezdon Butler is another guy who could return punts and kicks this year,
as well as Andre Ellington and Marquan Jones.
"Those are some of the guys you could see. Hopefully you will not see
them, but those are some of the guys you could see," Powell laughed.
More production needed in return game
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