CLEMSON — For former Calhoun Academy quarterback and punter Will Spiers, his first season for the Clemson Tigers could not have gone any better.
After redshirting in 2016, Spiers won the starting punting job last fall and subsequently put together one of the best seasons in Clemson history for a punter, averaging 40.6 yards per punt — good enough to move the first-year starter into 10th in Clemson history in punting average.
“He has been a huge part of our success this season,” tight end coach and special teams coordinator Danny Pearman said. “He has really become a weapon for us, and our ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory and flip field position.”
The Tigers had struggled the last two seasons in the punting game, ranking 117th nationally in 2016 and 105th in 2015 in punting. However, that changed this season with the emergence of Spiers.
In 2017, the Tigers jumped 39 spots in the national rankings to 78th in the nation in punting.
Spiers had 25 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, against only four touchbacks in 67 total punts this season. He also added 12 punts of 50-plus yards and was named special teams player of the week three times this season.
“He wasn’t a punter (coming out of high school), he was just a guy who went out and punted it,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He didn’t have any coaching, no training — he wasn’t a guy who just punted all the time. He redshirted last year and really worked on his craft. He has really, really worked really hard to become a punter, to become a technical guy.
“I’m just really proud of him because he’s got a great mindset that you love to see out of your specialist.”
Swinney and the coaching staff's pride in Spiers was evident at the annual awards banquet, where Spiers was named Specialist of the Year.
While Spiers enjoys the praise of the coaching staff, his focus is only on doing his job.
“My mindset has always been to just go out there and do the best I can every time I step on the field,” Spiers said. “I mean, I know that my job is to flip the field and put our defense in the best position to go out and be successful. So if I can do that — great. Really if I go out there and do my job, hopefully nobody will notice me.”
While his hope is that nobody notices him, Spiers’ teammates understand the key role he plays in the team's success — primarily in setting up the defense for success.
“Special teams is a big part of our success,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “Shoutout to Will Spiers, he (does) a really good job of giving those things (footballs) a ride ... The offense may not have had a great drive, but if the special teams can put the defense in a great spot, it’s easier to play off of that.”
While Spiers did not start punting full time until his arrival at Clemson, it was in his blood.
His father Bill was the starting punter on Clemson’s 1986 team, but his father admits he has had little to do with Will’s success.
“I haven’t said a whole lot to him. Really, I let the coaches handle him,” Bill said. “I mean I am here if he needs me for something, but he has done pretty good this year without much input from his old dad. So I just sit back and let him do his thing.”
With the season now over, Spiers will have to wait seven months before getting another chance to take the field. But if Swinney is as prophetic about Spiers’ future as he has been about other things, his journey is only just beginning.
“He’s a weapon, and he’s just going to get better,” Swinney said. “When it’s all said and done, I think he can be one of the best we’ve ever had here.”