2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Preview Series: Special Teams

Written by Brett Korpi
(Photo Credit: Terry Molsey / The SkyBoat)
Welcome to the first part of our series of previews leading up to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Which, is the much-hyped rematch between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson. Today we will break down the special teams play.


The Crimson Tide’s special teams have the ability to change games. Facing a 24-10 deficit against Ole Miss with a minute to play in the first half, punt returner Eddie Jackson changed the scope of the game by taking a punt 85 yards to bring Alabama within one score going into halftime on their way to a 48-43 win.

In all, the Tide returned four punts for touchdowns. Jackson with two, Trevon Diggs and Josh Jacobs each had one each. The punt return unit has averaged 15 yards a return, which ranked 5th in the country. Jackson was the top returner with a 23-yard average on ten attempts.

The kick return unit has not been as spectacular as the punt return unit. Alabama kick returners are ranked 90th in the country with an average of 19.6 yards per return. Diggs is the top returned for the unit with a 23.71 average and a long of 41 yards.

JK Scott is the punter for Alabama. He ranks 2nd in the country with an average of 47.7 yards per punt.  As a unit, the punt team ranks 22nd nationally in net yards, averaging 39.85 net yards. But, the unit struggles at keeping the returner under wraps, as they rank 104th with opponents averaging 11 yards a return.

Adam Griffith handles the field goal duties for the Tide and is 20 for 27 on the year with a long of 48.

Alabama has blocked three field goals this year.


Head coach Dabo Swinney made it a point to focus on special teams after last year’s championship game against the Tide. In that meeting, Alabama head coach Nick Saban dialed up an onside kick all tied up 24-24 which his team executed the perfectly. The back-breaking play came midway through the fourth after Clemson pulled with 31-27, The Tide’s Kenyan Drake took the kickoff 95 yards for a score.

This year the Tigers rank 48th in kick return defense holding teams to 19.74 yards per return and zero touchdowns this season. The punt team has been even better, as they held teams to just 4.7 yards per return to rank 25th.

The return units have some big play ability for the Tigers. Ray Ray McCloud is averaging 8 yards per return and has a long of 74 for the punt return team. While, Artavis Scott has a 77-yard kickoff return under his belt and is averaging 23 yards per return.

Tigers kicker Greg Huegel is 14 for 19 in field goal attempts this season including a long of 47.

Clemson has been able to block four field goals this season tied for `12th in the country.

The College Football Playoff National Championship will be played on Monday, January 9th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Check back tomorrow for a preview of Alabama’s famed defense. 

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