3 Questions about the Clemson Football special teams this spring

It is a mixed back for Clemson's special teams as they approach 2024. Here are the three things I am asking about as we approach the spring game.

Clemson punter Aidan Swanson (39) near Clemson kicker Nolan Hauser (81)
Clemson punter Aidan Swanson (39) near Clemson kicker Nolan Hauser (81) / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Is Nolan Hauser ready for prime-time?

Clemson knew they needed to replace BT Potter last season. They had a competition between Robert Gunn and Liam Boyd. Despite an impressive field goal made in the Spring Game, Boyd entered the transfer portal after the spring.

This seemed like a strong indicator that Gunn had won the kicking duties and there was enough difference between the competitors that Boyd either didn’t think there was a point in sticking around or there were better opportunities elsewhere. This led me to relax and not worry about the kicker.

I learned my lesson quickly. The mishaps started from the first upset loss at Duke and didn’t get better. I then had to eat some crow as Clemson brought back kicker Jonathan Weitz, who was enrolled in graduate classes remotely from Charleston.

I might have busted a few jokes at South Carolina’s expense when they activated graduate assistant Zeb Noland and put him on the roster and began playing him at quarterback. Kicker is not quarterback, but at least Noland was working with the program. Weitz was getting ready to begin a career in New York City.

Everything about incoming freshman Nolan Hauser’s resume tells me that I shouldn’t worry about kicker this season. Hauser holds the record for most field goals made in a high school career with 66 made field goals. The previous record was 56 by Cole Hedlund. Hauser didn’t just break Hedlund’s record, he crushed it.

However, we must consider one thing: kicking is a finicky business. Hedlund is a great example. He was good for the Arkansas Razorbacks until he wasn’t. He missed two critical field goals in a loss as a junior and he never got another shot at a field goal in Fayetteville again. He transferred to North Texas and recovered his career enough to get a shot in the NFL, but he certainly didn’t turn into a ‘can’t miss’ guy.

As far as we know, Gunn was solid enough in the spring that the staff thought he was the starting kicker in 2023 and didn't worry too much about Boyd leaving.

These examples aren't to suggest I don't think Hauser will be very good. I do think he will be the next great Clemson kicker. I have just learned my lesson about expecting smooth sailing in the kicking department.

Next: Can Aidan Swanson continue his elevated play?