The under-the-radar position battle Clemson fans should keep an eye on for 2019

Dabo Swinney updates offseason, talks NFL draft plans

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney spoke to the media prior to Prowl & Growl event
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney spoke to the media prior to Prowl & Growl event

There was not much for Clemson fans to be unhappy about during the 2018 season.

The Tigers won the national title, going a perfect 15-0, and Clemson was dominant in the process.

Clemson won each of its final 10 games by at least three touchdowns, beating Notre Dame by 27 points in the Cotton Bowl and Alabama by four touchdowns in the national title game.

But if there was one area that consistently made Clemson fans uneasy it was at punter. Starting punter Will Spiers averaged 39.7 yards per punt last year. That average was No. 12 in the ACC and No. 88 nationally.

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney believes Spiers has what it takes to be drafted one day. He just has to be more consistent.

“He’s done that this spring. I just think maturity, confidence, he’s been in a lot of games. He’s had some failures, had some success. You just kind of see that confidence and leadership growing in him. So I’m excited about him,” Swinney said. “He’s just gotta take it to the game field and be what he can be. He could be a draftable kid if he’ll just be consistent with his process, because he’s very talented.”

Another talented punter Clemson now has on its roster is freshman Aidan Swanson.

The Tampa, Florida native pushed Spiers in practice this spring, and the punting competition should carry over into fall camp.

“He’s got natural pop. He’s a very focused kid. He’s fundamentally very polished. He’s coming in at a lot different spot than Will did,” Swinney said of Swanson. “Will wasn’t really a punter. He was a quarterback, shortstop and basketball player that just ran out there (in high school)... So he’s had to learn. But I think Will will be as good a punter as we’ve had come here. I think he’s ready to really take off and be what we’ve seen consistently on our practice field.”

During the spring game Spiers and Swanson each had their ups and downs.

Spiers struggled with his first punt as it traveled only 35 yards, while Swanson had a first-quarter punt that went for 47 yards and was downed inside the 5.

But overall Spiers averaged 42 yards per punt, while Swanson averaged 41. Just as they were during spring practice, the two were very similar during the spring game. Clemson’s coaching staff will look for someone to separate during fall camp.

“At punter it’s nice to know that we have another guy that can really be an outstanding player. That’s why we signed (Swanson). Spiers has had a great spring… He’s had his best spring. Had a good day (during the spring game),” Swinney said. “And then Aidan, you can see his natural ability. He’ll bomb a couple and then he’ll shank two or three. So just the consistency that we’ve gotta have. But I don’t have any doubt that both of those guys are gonna get better and we’re gonna have great competition there. And a little more depth than what we’ve had.”