By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, SC — What specialist is going to get hurt this week?
That was the first question Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman was asked Monday after news of Spencer Benton’s injury was made public. His response?
“I don’t know… Chandler?”
Chandler Catanzaro, the Tigers’ starting place kicker, is the only active specialist yet to get hurt. Zimmerman suffered a bruised tendon in his knee against Florida State, and now Benton is set to miss 6-8 weeks with a broken shoulder blade.
“It’s just kind of a freak thing,” Zimmerman said of Benton’s injury. “Me and Chandler are just going to have to shoulder the load there. Spencer is a great player, he’s a great kick-off guy and a great holder, so we’re going to have to – for however long he’s out – be the guys and bring up our game.”
Zimmerman and Catanzaro have already received some action in Benton’s place. After Benton went down Saturday against Virginia Tech, Catanzaro took the role of kick-off specialist while Zimmerman held on field goals. Zimmerman said the reason he didn’t kick-off was due to his lingering knee injury.
“I hadn’t really tested it during kick-offs,” he said. “Also, Chandler – because it was so cold – Chandler was a lot more warmed up with like his hip and everything else to be able to just go out there and have a good kick-off where as I would have had to warm up some for that.”
The senior punter said their roles for Saturday’s matchup against Boston College will be ironed out in practice this week.
“Either me or Chandler can do it, potentially. It’s just going to be a matter of both trying it this week. It’s one of those things where I haven’t really kicked-off in a while, I’ve been a back up and I’ve kicked every now and then, so it’s just one of those things where we’ll have to see how it plays out this week before we really know.”
Fortunately, Zimmerman’s injury is all but healed, and the senior will be able to practice full-go after missing all of last week. Zimmerman said his knee actually felt good in the game, despite the circumstances.
“My knee felt pretty good in the game. There was barely any swelling left,” he said. “It was a little bit different (mechanics-wise), but I don’t think it was anything that affected the performance aspect. It was tough conditions to not punt all week then have to punt in the game, but I made the best of it.”
Zimmerman has more on his plate than just learning to kick-off, though – something that should be relatively easy for the Ray Guy Award List Watch member to pick up; he’ll also have to deal with the pressures of holding on all field goals and extra points.
But Zimmerman said he’s well prepared to hold, and he’s not nervous about the new responsibility.
“I was going to be the holder up until fall camp, so it’s something I’ve practiced all summer and all spring,” he said. “I held pretty much every field goal in the spring. Luckily, we feel like we’re in the position there shouldn’t be much drop off. I’m confident that I can do the job holding. It shouldn’t be a problem because I’m over there repping it with Chandler, so I think we should be good.”
Zimmerman said that – like anything – it will be a little uncomfortable the first couple of times he holds in a game, but that it will be fine after he settles in.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney has already shown one fake field goal this season, so will Zimmerman be ready if the opportunity to throw a touchdown on a fake comes his way?
“I mean, maybe, if that’s what needs to happen, then I’m down to throw one,” he said. “I think for right now we’ll just try to make the field goals.”