The last time Clemson had a Spiers punting the football against Virginia Tech was 31 years ago when former Major League Baseball player Bill Spiers handled the choir for the Tigers.
The year was 1986, and the Tigers opened the season at home against the Hokies. A few months earlier, Spiers, who was the starting shortstop for Bill Wilhelm’s baseball program back then, walked on after then head coach Danny Ford took out an out ad in the student newspaper The Tiger looking for a new punter.
Spiers beat out 26 other students who tried out for the team and followed it with a pretty good season as he averaged 39.2 yards per punt. Spiers will be on the sidelines as a student-volunteer coach on Saturday (8 p.m.) at Lane Stadium as his son, Will, and the rest of the second-ranked Tigers travel to Blacksburg, Va., to take on No. 12 Virginia Tech.
The elder Spiers hopes his son has a better outing against the Hokies than he did in Death Valley on September 13, 1986. On his second punt of the game, Virginia Tech’s Victor Jones blocked the punt and Mitch Dove recovered the loose ball in the end zone for six points. It turned out to be the difference in the game as the Hokies beat Clemson for the first time since 1954 that afternoon, 20-14.
“We talk about it and it was only his second punt ever, but we laugh about it now,” Will said.
Will, who also walked on to the Clemson team, has gotten off to a better start than his father did. The younger Spiers won ACC Specialist of the Week honors after his performance against Louisville on Sept. 16. The redshirt freshman punted four times, while averaging 51.8 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards.
Twice he nailed the Cardinals inside their own five-yard line and he had three inside the 20 overall. Will currently is second in the ACC and fifth nationally with a 47.1 yards per punt average.
In a game of this magnitude, the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) are going to need another strong performance on the road from their punter. Pinning quarterback Lamar Jackson and Louisville deep in its own territory gave the Clemson defense some wiggle room and played a big part in why Jackson was limited to 180 total yards in the first three quarters.
“My job is to give our defense the best chance and to pin them deep,” Will said.
With two of the ACC’s best defenses on display, it should be an interesting battle between Will and Virginia Tech punter Oscar Bradburn, who is averaging 44.0 yards per punt.
Will currently has eight punts downed inside the 20, while Bradburn has six. However, Spiers has seven punts that have traveled 50 or more yards, while Bradburn has just three. Punts like that can flip the field quickly.
“Will has been big for us,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He has allowed us to flip the field a few times. That’s big.”
And the Spiers are hoping Will plays big enough to do it again on Saturday, and maybe avenge the Hokies for his father.