The first day of preseason camp was a rough one in Clemson’s search for its next full-time punter, but one of the primary contenders to replace Will Spiers turned the negative into a positive.
Aidan Swanson agreed with head coach Dabo Swinney that the first day of competition between himself, senior B.T. Potter and true freshman Jack Smith wasn’t good. Swinney took his displeasure to the extreme, calling it maybe “the worst punting drill I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Swanson pointed to mishits specifically as the reason the group – all of whom are capable of punts of 40-plus yards – got off punts that rarely traveled more than 30 yards in the air.
“It’s just one of those bad days you have,” the Tigers’ junior punter said. “You have your good days and your bad days, but it’s all about how you respond.”
That response has been far more positive, according to Swinney and Swanson. For Swanson, who’s entering his fourth year in the program and began the spring as the most likely successor to Spiers, the bad start was a blessing in disguise.
“I’m glad I had that day I had because it made me really realize that, hey, I’ve got to get my mental game down,” Swanson said Friday. “These past two days, I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve done. And I’ve gotten great feedback from the coaches.”
His competition for the job has gotten his attention as well.
Potter, Clemson’s veteran placekicker, tried his hand at punting in the spring and continues to split his reps during camp. Meanwhile, Smith, who joined the competition as an early enrollee this spring, had a day last week in which Swinney said the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder was the best of the group.
Swanson said his goal is to average at least 40 yards per punt. He’s punted eight times for Clemson for an averaging of 38.1 yards to this point, but the lefty showed what he’s truly capable of during the spring game when he averaged 45.5 yards on six punts.
“Anything that’s a fair catch works for me,” he said. “That’s all I’m trying to do is make them have to take a fair catch for it.”
That starts with Swanson reminding himself what he’s capable of even when things aren’t necessarily going as planned.
“For me, it’s just all mental. That’s all it is,” Swanson said. “I know I have the physical capabilities to do it. It’s just about having the right mindset. Not being discouraged after I have a bad one. It’s bouncing back for me and just enjoying the moment.”
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