The elaborate sequence from kick to catch could be viewed as a moment of silence.
A clear mind, focus on locating the ball, and a clean catch is ritual to Syracuse WR/RS Trebor Pena before making a return. Being overwhelmed is one thing but to have 11 defenders sprinting towards you as you locate a football is peaceful for Pena.
“It comes from playing football in the backyard growing up,” Pena said. “I used to love having everyone come after me and I’m just trying to make everybody miss.”
The recipe for a good return can be compared to the making of chemical X in the Powerpuff Girls, which is simply sugar, spice, and everything nice. Although Pena has not broken one yet this season, the way he makes defenders miss is like poetry. Each return is never the same however the desired result for each return remains the same.
“Everytime I touch the ball I want to score,” Pena said. “I try to follow my blockers, they lead the way.”
The room for error on either a punt return or kick return is little to none. One missed block can cost you a big return and a slight grab of a jersey can bring back a touchdown. Syracuse head coach Dino Babers understands how precious the art of returning is and loves what he sees in Trebor Pena.
“We have to do a better job at holding people up and I don’t think we’ve been doing that great of a job,” Babers said. “And he’s still making the first guy miss and accelerating through.”
Although Babers doesn’t believe their return units are significantly helping Pena out, he believes Pena has some “stuff” to him. In the many years of Dino Babers coaching career, the progression of Pena is one to none.
“If he continues to grow like that, I can see him being a NFL guy doing that stuff.”
The praise from Babers left Pena emotional as he knew he was good at returning however he never imagined it may lead him down a bigger road.
As Pena progresses through the season the opportunity and feel of breaking one gets closer and closer. Through five games this season his biggest gain on kick return was for 39 yards against Florida State and 32 yards on punt return against Ohio. The creases begin to open and if Pena brushes off one defender, he may go all the way. Pena leads the ACC in kick return yardage at 338 yards and is currently second in yards per kick return at 24.1. In 2020, Pena had a house call of 98 yards against NC State and it was the first kick return for a touchdown for Syracuse since 2011.
The Orange face off against the Clemson Tigers in the Dome for the second Friday night game this season. The talk of the town is that Clemson is not the same Clemson of years prior. Obviously they are not with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne leaving for the NFL. However the Orange are not taking this game lightly and understand how big a win would be for the morale of the team. The Orange are approaching the matchup against Clemson just as any other, Pena said.