Making kickoffs and punts ‘live' one more time this spring gave Dabo Swinney another assessment going into the summer on where Clemson is in the kick the return game.
Junior Artavis Scott ran circles around his competition (and kick coverage teammates), with a 32-yard punt return and a long of 44 yards on a kickoff try.
“He’s the guy right now we have the most confidence in,” Dabo Swinney said Saturday. “But we’re trying to develop some other guys. You saw why we had confidence in Artavis today. He’s hard to tackle. He’s tough. He’s a good decision-maker. He just fights for everything. He’s just a relentless competitor. We’re confident in him.
“We need about two or three other guys to have the type of rotation we want.”
Scott’s longest punt return was 16 yards in 13 chances last season, while he had a long of 44 yards off the kickoff and a 43-yarder against Alabama in January.
Sophomore receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, a former five-star, struggled to get off the ground in the final spring showcase (long of nine yards on punt returns), but Swinney remains hopeful.
“Ray-Ray’s a guy that we’d love to see kinda become a go-to guy for us in that return game because we really think he could be special,” Swinney said, “but we know Artavis can do it, and we all trust him.”
“We’re really trying to challenge some other guys and develop some other guys, as well, and Ray-Ray’s one of them that we need some production from him in the return game.”
Clemson ranked 52nd on kickoff returns last year, which was the highest since 2011 when a Tiger kick returner last reached the endzone (Sammy Watkins; 49th).
The Tigers haven’t cracked the top-50 in punt return average since 2010 (29th) and have scored exactly twice in the Swinney era (2014 and 2009).
Swinney said freshmen skill-position standouts Tavien Feaster and Cornell Powell will get a crack at jump-starting this phase of the game in August.
“Both those guys will have pretty elite ability as returners as well,” he said. “We'll look at those guys and then we'll make some decisions.”