CLEMSON — Monday Clemson had a first since the 2014 season: The punter was named ACC Specialist of the Week.
And the honoree just happens to be former Calhoun Academy standout Will Spiers.
Spiers averaged 51.8 yards on four punts, placing three of those attempts inside the 20-yard line, in Clemson’s Saturday night 47-21 win over Louisville. Twice the redshirt freshman backed the Cardinals to their own 5-yard line.
Spiers was a major reason Louisville’s average starting field position was its own 19-yard line. His efforts included a 64-yarder and a 58-yarder in the first half.
The 51.8 punting average stands as the third best in Clemson single-game history.
The former quarterback and punter for the Cavaliers has turned into a weapon for the Clemson special team — averaging 46.75 yards per punt (11th in FBS). But as good as he has been, the credit is shared with his teammates on the punt coverage team.
“For us it’s the same thing every week as far as going out there and trying to put our defense in the best situation,” Spiers said Monday. “My job is to give our defense the best chance to make it as hard as possible for their offense to score and pinning them deep is a big emphasis.
“My mindset’s just to go out there and do the best that I can and just trust my punt team and that they’ll go down there and cover the returner, and they’ve been doing a great job of that the whole year — I can’t give enough credit to them for that.”
It was later in the same game when Spiers had his “welcome to college football” moment. When trying to pin Louisville deep inside its own territory, he kicked the ball too far, sailing it into the end zone and drawing the ire of head coach Dabo Swinney.
“I should have done my job better and not kicked it in the end zone, but it was definitely a welcome to college football, hearing him after that,” Spiers joked. “I would like to pin them deep, but I go out there with the mindset to just hit the best ball I can possible. I got lucky with a few bounces where it went out on the five, which is great.”
Last season, Spiers walked on to Clemson football team with the hope of earning a scholarship and carrying on a tradition started by his father. Bill Spiers was Clemson’s starting punter in 1986, averaging 39.2 yards per punt for the Tigers’ 8-2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference championship team before moving on to a 13-year Major League Baseball career.
After redshirting last season behind incumbent punter Andy Teasdall, Will finally got his opportunity in the spring when Swinney announced he had one scholarship left to give. That scholarship would go to the winner of the punting battle between Spiers, Michael Batson and Carson King.
It was not until the Monday before the opening game against Kent State that Spiers learned he had won the job and the scholarship, which is a moment that he and his father will never forget.
“It was awesome. It was a great experience — very happy for me and my family. Just a great experience and happy that it happened,” Spiers said. “It was a good moment for both of us. It was great him being there with me.”
With the Tigers having found themselves a weapon in the leg of Spiers, Will is trying to stay humble and do what he is asked.
“I’m just out there doing my job,” Spiers said. “I feel like we’ve had great punters in the past, but I’m just doing what I’m told to do — embrace it and be the best I can be.”
Growing up with a baseball dad
Spiers grew up with a father who was used to the limelight. Bill was drafted 13th overall pick by the Brewers in the 1987 MLB draft.
From 1987 to 2001, Bill amassed 922 career hits in 13 seasons — more than any other former Tiger baseball player.
But for Will, he was just his dad.
“When he retired, I was about 3 years old, so I don’t remember much. I do remember some things at the ballpark, but I don’t remember much,” Spiers said. “I wish I was older when he retired, but I do remember some things.
“I just thought it was really cool. We were really close with (Hall of Fame inductee) Craig Biggio. … It is cool to every now and then getting to hear my dad talk to him or when we went to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It was cool growing up like that.”
Now with his dad on the Clemson football staff as an undergraduate coach, Will leans on him for advice every now and then.
“It’s good,” Will said. “Obviously he punted here and after practice sometimes we’ll work a little more just when we can, or he’ll help me out with advice or stuff with punting.”