Amari Rodgers isn’t just stepping into a new role on Clemson’s offense.
The Tennessee native, who is penciled in as a starter at wide receiver, is also being given the task of replacing Ray-Ray McCloud as the first-team punt returner.
Nothing has been officially decided yet, but Rodgers has been fielding punts with the first team so far during preseason camp. He will get an opportunity to impress during Saturday’s scrimmage, Clemson’s first of the preseason.
“Tomorrow’s our big day to put it out there and see. Right now it’s just been kind of practice, getting the schematic part down so we can build towards this scrimmage,” special teams coordinator Danny Pearman said Friday. “We don’t get a preseason game. It’s just scrimmages. So we’ve got to put them out there and see what happens. Right now, he’ll be the first to go out there.”
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McCloud averaged 12.1 yards per return in 2017, including a 77-yard return for a touchdown against N.C. State.
But the Florida native also had his share of bobbles while trying to field punts. Pearman said Rodgers has been great as far as decision-making and catching punts in practice.
“You’ve gotta be a good decision-maker, and I see that in him. He has a good knack to catch the ball. You’ve gotta understand the big object is to posses the ball, no matter what you’re doing out there, and he does that,” Pearman said. “And then he makes good decisions with the ball … That’s a really, really hard job is to be in front of 80,000 people and that ball’s screaming high and you get out there and have to catch it. That’s one of the basic fundamentals. He does a good job with that.”
Rodgers is no stranger to returning punts. He practiced at it some last year as a backup and returned two punts for 15 yards in games.
He was also a weapon in the return game throughout his high school career.
“Just get north,” Rodgers said of his motto when returning punts. “I’m a bigger guy so I’m going to break my tackles and I try not to drop any balls, so I’m going to keep working on that hopefully this season and I won’t drop any.”
In addition to Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow, Derion Kendrick, K’Von Wallace, Mark Fields and Will Swinney have worked at punt return, according to Pearman.