New Clemson team with new challenges. That’s business as usual, Dabo says
Clemson is turning the page from fall camp to starting prep for Georgia Tech this week, but there are still some position battles to be decided before the season opener next Thursday.
Tigers special teams coordinator Danny Pearman spoke with the media recently and said several starting spots are still up for grabs within his unit.
Perhaps the biggest weakness for Clemson on special teams last season was at punter as Will Spiers ranked No. 88 nationally and 12th in the ACC, averaging 39.7 yards per attempt. Spiers is in a battle to keep his starting job with true freshman Aidan Swanson and senior Steven Sawicki.
“We’ve got a good combination with Will (Spiers), Steven Sawicki and Aidan Swanson punting, all three of those kids. We’ll make a decision probably in the next couple of days on those guys,” Pearman said.
The battle will likely come down to Spiers and Swanson as those two are primarily known as punters, with Sawicki being more of a place kicker. Spiers has the experience and has had a solid camp, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“He’s been OK. Aidan’s pushed, Steven Sawicki’s pushed. That’s a three-way competition there,” Pearman said. “Some days (Spiers) has come out the victor, some days he has been beaten out. It’s a good, healthy competition there.”
Swanson a left-footed punter, was ranked as a top five player in the country at his position coming out of high school. The Tampa native is working to be more consistent with his attempts.
“He’s just got to get some experience. He’s not going to get that until he gets in,” Pearman said.
As for returning punts, Clemson has several options while Amari Rodgers works his way back from a torn ACL suffered this spring.
Defensive backs Derion Kendrick, Andrew Booth and K’Von Wallace, as well as receivers Will Swinney, Will Brown, Justyn Ross and Brannon Spector have been getting reps. Freshman running back Mikey Dukes has also gotten a look. Kendrick is expected to start as the punt returner until Rodgers returns.
The Tigers also have plenty of options as far as kick returners, including Kendrick, freshman receiver Joseph Ngata, running back Travis Etienne, Booth, Wallace and Cornell Powell.
Ngata “has had a really good camp there,” according to Pearman.
Work in progress
Clemson star cornerback A.J. Terrell knows what it takes to win a national title. Terrell believes this year’s team has the potential to do so, but it’s not as far along as last year’s squad was at this point.
“Last year’s team, we had almost everything figured out. This year, we have a lot of young people, new leaders, and everybody has different roles,” Terrell said. “Now we have to put it all together. Last year, it was already molded.”