Going into this season expectations were at two ends of the spectrum. On the field goal and kickoff side, there were no worries. Veteran BT Potter and his cannon leg were returning for year 5, so another year of booming kickoffs and automatic field goals was expected. For the most part, BT delivered on this, save for the Orange Bowl meltdown which I’ll get to in a moment. Punting was less certain - for what felt like the first time since the Danny Ford era, Will Spiers was not Clemson’s punter. It’s not that we thought Aidan wasn’t good, but he was still unproven.
BT Potter’s final year was another great year with a disappointing footnote. Throughout the regular season, he continued to be automatic on extra points, a reliable field goal kicker with deadly range, and a kickoff guy that regularly sent kicks through the back of the end zone. In fact, one of the things that made the loss to South Carolina so frustrating is that every Clemson fan knew all the offense needed to do was get it in BT’s range and the Tigers would win. And that range is pretty long: his farthest kick on the year was 52, which tied his career-long. Stories have been told of him eclipsing 60 in practice. If Clemson’s offense could’ve given him anything inside of 55 in the late 4th quarter, I feel pretty certain he would make it.
This all also makes the Orange Bowl more confusing and frustrating. Fans aren’t frustrated at BT, but for BT. It was confounding to watch a surefooted weapon start off 0-3. But as we have seen across the football landscape, sometimes kickers get the yips. Fortunately, BT was able to finish with two made field goals in the game. I look forward to watching him put this game behind him and going on to have a long, successful NFL career.
So now, Clemson will look to Robert Gunn at kicker. The hype for Gunn is there, but we have rarely gotten to see him on the field. He was 1-1 on extra points in 2022 and did not attempt a field goal. Not being able to see freshman and reserves in garbage time is a frustrating side effect of Clemson’s offensive woes, one that I hope quickly disappears under new Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley. You have to think in the older, high scoring days, blowout wins against the likes of Louisiana Tech, Furman, Miami, etc. would allow emptying the bench, and our backup kicker getting a few reps. Unfortunately, those games all were just close enough at certain points that Clemson wouldn’t make mass substitutions. Please let us be returning to the days where we can treat conference opponents as open scrimmages, and walk-ons are playing because we’re trying not to run up the score too bad and not because of depth issues.
Aidan Swanson absolutely exceeded expectations in 2022. He came away with an average punt of 42.3 yards. His season-long 67-yarder against Notre Dame was one of a few bright spots in an otherwise brutal loss. All in all, I feel great about Swanson going into 2023.