By Trey McCurry.
All during camp, everyone has been focused on the wide receivers and other key positions battles for the opener against North Texas. TheClemsonInsider recently talked with all three players who are in another battle that you generally don’t hear much about until the games get here and something goes wrong. These three players are, of course, the placekickers.
Richard Jackson, Spencer Benton, and Chandler Catanzaro are all taking reps to determine who will be the starting place kicker against North Texas. Last season, Jackson was the starter in 13 of 14 games and was 20-31 on field goals, including three field goals of over 50 yards to set a Clemson record, and was 41-43 on PATs. Benton made one start at place kicker, made his only field goal, and was 4-7 on PATs as he handled kickoffs for most of the season. Catanzaro redshirted during the 2009 season.
In the first scrimmage of fall camp, Jackson was 4-4 (including two from 42 yards), Benton was 3-4, and Catanzaro was 2-3 (with his only miss from 56 yards).
In the second scrimmage the kickers struggled. Jackson and Benton combined for 1 out of 6 but Catanzaro only missed one long field goal.
When discussing the ongoing kicking battle, all three players were very complementary of each other and how it was going. “It’s a strong battle among quality competition,” said Jackson after a recent practice. Benton echoed those statements and added “everyone is pushing everyone and hitting everything, so it is healthy for us.” Catanzaro said it was “going great and that he was just loving being out here with all these guys.”
Another interesting aspect of this battle is how close the special teams unit is as a whole. Benton looked at it this way: “There is a time and a place for everything. We are all good friends and we can all get along off the field while challenging each other on the field.” Jackson said, “It is not a competition against the person with kicking, you are trying to better yourself. That makes being friends easier and the group tighter.” Catanzaro had a similar view. “It is very comfortable environment just being around these guys. We are all good friends and we push each other and support each other every day.”
All three guys agree that the kicking game will be crucial to Clemson’s success this season and all just want the best person out on the field, no matter who it is. No matter, this will be an intriguing battle to watch all the way up until the opening week of the season and potentially further.