The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their sixth-round draft pick to select Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay, who is a tremendous return specialist. After years of coaching Devin Hester, the NFL’s all-time return touchdown leader, in Chicago, Bucs head coach Lovie Smith wanted to find another Hester, and Clay has the ability to be a great returner in Tampa Bay.
Even if Clay settled for being the next Clifton Smith for the Buccaneers that would be fine, as Smith returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown and made the Pro Bowl in 2006.
In one year at Utah, Clay returned 23 punts for 346 yards (15.0 avg.) with three touchdowns in 2014, while also returning 22 kicks for 548 yards (24.9 avg.) and one touchdown. Clay also used his 4.45 speed to catch 43 passes for 523 yards (12.2 avg.) with four touchdowns for the Utes.
“I feel like that’s a big part of my game,” Clay said. “I really pride myself on special teams, kick return and punt return. But you know, also just the full aspect of being a special teams player, going down and making tackles, and being a gunner on kickoffs and punts, those things. I believe that special teams are maybe the most important part of the game because it can control field position. What our coaches asked us to do at Utah was get a first down. If you get a first down on a kick return or a punt return, that’s ten less yards that we have to go. You can flip the field and get better field position for your offense, which gives you a greater chance of scoring and it also helps your defense as well.”
Clay is probably best known for his costly blunder against Oregon that turned what could have been a 14-0 lead into a 7-7 tie game against the Ducks.
“Going back to that play, it was actually probably my favorite play and I didn’t get to score on it,” Clay said. “But just that play in general, it’s helped me grow as a person, not just a football player. Things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to go, it’s how you go through adversity. That play, I’ve become a better person and not take things for granted. Not everything is promised, and like I said, things are going to happen, adversity is going to happen but it’s how you get through it. Do you let it bring you down or do you keep going forward? I feel like I’ve gotten through it with a lot of support from my friends and my family. Like I said, it’s just made me a better person overall.”
Clay, who originally enrolled at California, spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons at Mt. San Antonio College where he caught 90 passes for 1,654 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also averaged 34.5 yards per kick return in his two seasons with five touchdowns, and led Mt. SAC in punt returns in 2013 with 17 for 245 yards (14.4 average) and one touchdown. Bucs special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea worked out Clay at Utah in March.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
WTF? A wasted pick. He could have been easily signed as an underrated FA. What happened to an edge rusher, FS, nickel corner, RB? I liked the first four picks, and even Kwon Alexander was a value that can provide LB depth, but this is ridiculous.
@Retinadoc…I guess we needed a return specialist.
Bad pick- this guy dropped the ball before the goal line running for a TD against oregon….oregon picks it up and runs 100 yards for a TD the other way. How is that a return specialist?????
If you go by that play and that play alone then Desean Jackson shouldn’t be in the NFL right? I like the pick and think he can contribute. I’m really excited about what this seasons gonna bring
Nothing wrong with the pick. We need a guy like him.
Theres nothing but special teamers left at this point. Its not a deep draft. This pick has a chance to see the field, which is good enough.
Pay attention to what Coach Smith said before this draft? We have to improve our Special Team play. the 6th and 7th Round is where you find Special Team Players. We might pick a Punter in the 7th. Go Bucs!
At the risk of sounding “unprepared,” we seem to have set up camp on the anonymous side of the mountain. For sure, just because I haven’t heard of these later guys – and they may be really good players, doesn’t make them camp meat, but it’s more the positions drafted I question. Was really expecting mostly big guys followed by more big guys on both O and D. Will leave it to the pros … Go Bucs!
Every year we read the same types of comments from the same people who believe name recognition of the lack thereof is the measure of a player’s ability to succeed in the NFL. Likewise there are people who still think the Draft is like a fill in the blanks government form. Oh, we need a DE for line 6. We’re missing an OG on line 8. You will always have a weak, mediocre roster if your philosophy is to target a specific position without at least taking the rest of the evaluation criteria into consideration. If the DE or OG isn’t nearly as good or suit your model as well as the OLB, why in the world would you take the lesser player only to have him fail? Pay little attention to the TV personalities rankings. Their words aren’t any more correct than Bill Tobin’s mailman. I’d love to finally have a return specialist who makes me sit up in my seat and put the opponent on edge. I guess some of you are happy seeing a fair catch.
Another guy who can potentially be our KR/PR. I like it. We may finally end up a great returner who we expect to do something great whenever he touches the ball instead of being worried that it’ll go between his arms or legs.
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