Post spring insider: Kickers

CLEMSON — Andre Powell isn't just looking for a kicker, he is looking for a kicker that he can trust to make that game-winning kick in the closing seconds.

How important is it to have a kicker that has ice in his veins? Just go back to the South Carolina games in 2006 and 2007. One kick caused the Tigers to end their regular season in disappointment, while another sent them into celebration.

In a way, Mark Buchholz's game-winning kick in the Tigers' 23-21 victory over South Carolina in 2007 played a big-part in why Clemson is now paying former head coach Tommy Bowden $3 million dollars over the next six years.

Clemson has had a long list of cool-headed kickers. There was Obed Ariri from 1977-'80. He booted a 52-yard field with six seconds left to give Clemson a 27-24 win at Virginia in 1980. There was Donald Igwebuike from 1981-'84. He led the nation in field percentage in 1984 (17-of-18).

There was David Treadwell from 1985-'87. All he did was beat Georgia in back-to-back years — the only time Clemson has done that in the last 103 years — in the last 10 seconds. His coolness and accuracy during those times earned him the nickname "Mr. Clutch."

There was Chris Gardocki from 1988-'90. He had perhaps the most powerful leg of any Clemson kicker in history and set just about every record at Clemson he could as both a kicker and as a punter. He went on to star 17 years as a punter in the NFL and ended his NFL career without ever having a punt blocked. He played in more NFL games than any Clemson player in history.

There was Nelson Welch from 1991-'94. He too had a very successful career and he is most famous for his 32-yard field with 52 seconds left that capped the largest comeback in Clemson history in 1992. After falling behind 28-0 at No. 10 Virginia, the Tigers roared back to score 29 unanswered points for a 29-28 win.

"You would like to have a cool-headed guy," Powell said. "A guy that does it all the time and is a guy you can put in some pressure situations.

"Before the end of practice, we tell them, ‘we are going to kick a 50-yard field goal and if you make it no gassers. If we don't make it, eight gassers.' So he has all those guys looking at him over there so that is a little bit of pressure.

"I'm hoping the position clears up and it is an easy decision on who will be our kicker."

Spencer Benton (6-foot-1, 190 pounds, redshirt, sophomore, Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
About: He converted 22-of-37 field goals and 99-of-113 extra points in three years at Myrtle Beach High School, with a career-long of 49 yards. He was also a punter and wide receiver and had 410 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a senior. He was a two-time all-region and all-state selection and two-time all-area selection. He was also a WPDE All-Zone team selection and aWBTW All-Blitz team member. He was also selected to play in the Shrine Bowl.

The positives: Has a very strong leg and showed a lot of consistency in the spring. Made several kicks from 40-plus yards and even a few from 50-plus.

The negatives: He has never kicked in front of 80,000 people. Kicking in front of a full stadium is totally different than 24,000 in a spring game. Also his spring-break accident while snowboarding, in which he broke his collarbone, shows he might not have the maturity yet that is needed to be a successful college kicker. Though he did bounce back to finish the spring with a solid performance.

Richard Jackson (5-foot-11, 190 pounds, redshirt junior, Greer, S.C.)
About: Clemson's first Parade High School All-America kicker since Chris Gardocki. Second-string punter and placekicker in 2007 and was the second-team kicker in 2008. He has experience at both positions, though he has yet to punt in a game at Clemson. He has made two extra points as a kicker. Has played three career games. He received national acclaim on ESPN when he kicked a 64-yard field goal as a senior in high school.

The positives: Has tremendous leg strength. He can kick the ball from anywhere on the field. Improved in the spring, especially with his consistency.

The negatives: He appeard to lack motivation in the past. He has a lot of talent, but for whatever the reason hasn't been able to beat out other kickers for the job. Though he has got more consistent as of late, he needs to prove he can continue that success on a daily basis once fall practice begins in August. Top Stories