Wake Forest star Greg Dortch will improve Carolina’s Special Teams

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 08: Greg Dortch #2 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with teammates Charone Peake #17 and Ben Braden #69 in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during a preseason matchup at MetLife Stadium on August 08, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 08: Greg Dortch #2 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with teammates Charone Peake #17 and Ben Braden #69 in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during a preseason matchup at MetLife Stadium on August 08, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Panthers released WR/return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud on Tuesday. Greg Dortch was signed off the New York Jets practice squad in a corresponding move.

Following Ray-Ray McCloud’s third special teams fumble in six games, the Panthers decided it was time to move on from the former Clemson standout earlier this week. McCloud’s release left a void in kick and punt return duties, however, that void is expected to be filled by former Wake Forest star Greg Dortch. Dortch spent training camp and the preseason with the Jets before being released and resigned to the practice squad.

Dortch was named a second-team All-American in his final season at Wake Forest. In 4 preseason games with the Jets, he returned 9 punts for 85 yards.

Despite playing only two seasons of college football, Dortch quickly established himself as one of the premier return men at the collegiate level. In both seasons with the Demon Deacons, Dortch ranked in the top eight in punt return yards and yards per return. In 2018, his 276 punt return yards were the seventh-best mark in the nation, and his two punt return touchdowns were the most in the country. His special teams success earned him a spot as a 2018 All-American, as well as helped him latch on in the NFL.

WINSTON SALEM, NC – SEPTEMBER 13: Will Harris #8 and Taj-Amir Torres #24 of the Boston College Eagles tackle Greg Dortch #3 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at BB&T Field on September 13, 2018 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
WINSTON SALEM, NC – SEPTEMBER 13: Will Harris #8 and Taj-Amir Torres #24 of the Boston College Eagles tackle Greg Dortch #3 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at BB&T Field on September 13, 2018 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

In his time with the Jets, Dortch continued to find success returning punts. Dortch returned nine punts during the preseason, which tied for fourth-most in the league. Of the players with more returns than him, only one averaged more yards per return and had a longer return. While he didn’t return any kickoffs with the Jets, Dortch does have experience in doing so at the collegiate level.

McCloud had been a middle-of-the-pack returner at best this season, returning 10 punts for just 82 yards. Aside from his 39-yard return in Week 2 against Tampa Bay, he averaged just 4.8 yards per return. On kickoffs, McCloud managed only 21.8 yards per return–a number that ranked in the bottom half of the league.

Although Dortch has yet to play a single snap in a Panthers uniform, the situation seems right for both sides to find success. Dortch gets to return to the Carolinas in a meaningful role, and the Panthers get a player who has a significant track record of success as a return man. It’s unlikely that he will see time anywhere but special teams, however, he could be the one to provide a spark to a middling return game. For Greg Dortch, all roads really do lead to home.