Benton has learned his lesson

CLEMSON — There is a point in every man's life when he needs a wakeup call. Spencer Benton's came on a ski slope in Steamboat, Colo.

The Clemson kicker, who will be a redshirt freshman this fall, was doing what he has been doing the last 12 years of his life — snowboarding down the base of a mountain on Spring Break.

For the average person, that's really no big deal, but when you are a scholarship athlete and you're in the middle of an intense battle to see who will be the starting placekicker, you better make sure you do everything possible to take care of yourself.

"I think God was giving me a sign that I needed to get my priorities straight," Benton said.

That sign was a patch of ice at the bottom of the slope, which Benton hit right in the center of and went flying through the air. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound kicker from Myrtle Beach came down on his left shoulder and broke his collarbone.

"It was a freak accident," Benton said. "I have been snowboarding for like 12 years and have never fallen, not that bad at least, but it was icy… so he (God) body slammed me and told me to get up and get myself together."

Luckily, Benton wasn't hurt any worse and he was fortunate neither of his legs were. But there was a time probably when he wished he was because he still had to face head coach Dabo Swinney and tell him what had happened.

"I came in and told Coach Swinney what had happened, and I asked him ‘to please don't kill me, I have to tell you something. I broke my collarbone.' That's when he told me that I need to get my priorities straight," Benton said. "I learned a lot from that.

"This is what I want and to sit there and try to waste it, I had that one scare and it was enough to make a point."

Before he left for Spring Break, Benton wasn't doing too well in practice. He was just getting back into kicking shape after an off-season foot injury over the winter kept him from kicking.

His kicks were inconsistent and he was pushing them wide right.

"That really set him back a little bit," Clemson special teams coordinator Andre Powell said.

When Powell discovered Benton had broken his collarbone, obviously, he was a little mad, but at the same time he was relieved it wasn't his legs. Powell sees the potential in Benton, a Shrine Bowler who made 22 career field goals in high school.

"We are in spring and that happens, but a broken collarbone doesn't stop him from kicking," Powell said.

So Powell took Benton into his office and popped in a tape of the previous practice and pointed out what he was doing wrong.

"His plant foot was going where he was kicking the ball," Powell said. "It was pointing across his body therefore he could not swing through the ball. It closes and it doesn't allow you to swing through. Once we got his foot straight, now he can open up his hips and swing straight through the ball."

Now Benton is hitting everything he kicks. In last Saturday's scrimmage he was a perfect 7-of-7, including one from 50 yards. Powell says he actually could have kicked it from 60.

"His mechanics were off in regards to his feet and his hips, and once he saw it on tape, he worked on correcting it and he has corrected it. Now he is kicking much better," Powell said.

Even with a steel plate in his shoulder, Benton hasn't missed a step and has become the frontrunner to win the placekicking job come this fall.

"When we went over my kicks, I came out here and tried to see if I can get it — it has been clicking ever since then," Benton said.

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