David Cloninger

Joe Robinson lives up to billing for Gamecocks

Special teams coordinator Joe Robinson coaches the best overall unit at South Carolina.
Special teams coordinator Joe Robinson coaches the best overall unit at South Carolina. gmelendez@thestate.com

Steve Spurrier constantly praised Joe Robinson, calling him one of the country’s best special teams coaches.

It’s been a long and often-rough road, but Robinson has repaid his former coach’s trust.

In a lousy year at South Carolina, Robinson’s special teams are standing out. The Gamecocks rank sixth in the SEC in punting, third in kickoff returns, eighth in kickoff coverage and ninth in punt return average. Elliott Fry is No. 1 in the SEC in made and attempted field goals, while Sean Kelly is 10th in punting, but second in punts inside the 20.

All of Robinson’s kickers are exceeding their job requirements. Landon Ard has gotten into the habit of blasting kickoffs through the end zone and Fry has been nearly automatic. Kelly, as coach Shawn Elliott said on Tuesday, might be the team’s MVP in the way he can toss a lawn dart, spot the location of the point and then kick a football directly onto it.

Shon Carson is fifth in the SEC in kickoff return average and doesn’t return kicks anymore. That spot was taken by Rashad Fenton, who did what nobody at USC in 13 years could – return a kickoff for a touchdown.

Talk has been about what coaches will be retained once a new head coach is chosen. G.A. Mangus and Elliott have been prominently mentioned.

I can think of another one.

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