NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State special teams unit garnered attention in 2016 boasting a pair of All-Americans. Kicker Lane Clark capped his junior season with a First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection and was named to four All-American teams. Chris Rowland was honored as a HERO Sports FCS Freshman All-American after leading the nation in combined kickoff and punt return yardage.
The Tigers return all five members from last years’ specialist teams. Clark enters his final season after a campaign which saw him convert nine kicks from 44-yards and beyond, including four from 50-plus yards. The place kicker made more field goals from 44-yards-plus than 120 of the 124 FCS teams even attempted from that distance.
Punter Austin Rowley, who averaged 39.3 yards per punt, enters his third season and will serve as the place holder for the second consecutive year. Redshirt-sophomore Mitchell Boudreaux and freshman Coby Weiss provide depth at punter and kicking.
Sophomore Thomas Newberg will hold the long-snapping duties for his second season.
DeVon Johnson, Patrick Smith and Terrell Bonds will provide support and depth to Rowland in the return game.
|DeVon Johnson||RS||6-1||175||R-Jr.||Ala. A&M|
Junior Punter Austin Rowley
- On being an upperclassman
“It’s kind of nice having a few years under your belt. You feel like you know what’s going on and you get really comfortable with the schemes and the people you have in front of you. I’m just a lot more comfortable really.”
- On the specialists in camp
“Specialists are doing well. There is a lot of competition, and I think the competition is making everyone better.”
Freshman Kicker/Punter Coby Weiss
- On his first camp
“It’s been a pretty good camp. I’ve really enjoyed it. I like being out here. It’s definitely a lot different from high school, and we have a lot longer days. I had to make some adjustments, but it’s been a good camp, and I’m really looking forward to the regular season.”
- On learning from the veterans
“It’s been a tremendous help to learn from Lane (Clark) and Austin (Rowley). Lane has kind of taken me under his wing on field goals and he’s taught me a lot about timing and the different drills, so it’s been really helpful.”
Sophomore Long Snapper Thomas Newberg
- On being back for his sophomore season
“Coming into this season, it was good because we knew a lot of what we needed to change and things we needed to get better at. Our coaching staff did a great job of showing us little things here and there that we can tweak. Every year we come in striving for perfection so all the little things add up.”
- On the focus of camp
“The focus for me has been getting my times as fast as I can. We’ve been looking a lot at operation time, and we’ve had some new blocking schemes put in.”
Redshirt-Sophomore Kicker Mitchell Boudreaux
- On camp
“It’s been a difficult process because we’ve had some new talent step up with Coby Weiss. He’s definitely making the competition more fierce. To have an All-American like Lane Clark come back for his senior year, it’s definitely great for us to dominate the kicking game.”
- On what he’s looking forward to most this season
“Before every game, Coach Reed tells us to dominate the kicking game. We strive to do that every single time. We strive to be All-Americans. We strive to lead the OVC in whatever area we need and help out offense and defense any way we can.”
Senior Kicker Lane Clark
- On coming back for his senior season
“We’ve been extremely focused on putting in work all summer. In camp, we’re focusing on keeping our legs fresh and getting ready for the season to start.”
- On having returners on special teams
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had a different operation every year. Getting Austin (Rowley) and Thomas (Newberg) back will help us a lot as far as chemistry wise for this year.”