Projecting the Clemson Football depth chart: Special Teams

Outside of Aidan Swanson as the punter, none of the Clemson Football special teams positions are locked down this season, for varying reasons.
Nov 18, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers punter Aidan Swanson (39)
Nov 18, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers punter Aidan Swanson (39) / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Special teams don’t occupy a lot of the snaps in a football game, so their importance is often minimized until you have a problem. Then it seems like the biggest problem in the world. Clemson Football fans experienced that last season.

Projected Placekicker: Nolan Hauser

Projected Kickoff specialist: Robert Gunn

Projected Punter: Aidan Swanson

Projected Kick Returners: Antonio Williams, Jay Haynes

Projected Punt Returner: Tyler Brown

I’m going to start with punter because that is easy. Swanson improved his ball placement considerably last season. He isn’t likely to break any records or anything but there is no reason at this time to think he won’t deliver similar results in 2024.

Placekicker is where Clemson’s woes landed last season when Gunn wasn’t able to ‘hit the layups’. He has a big foot, and he still looks very good on kickoffs. I wondered if he might hit the portal this spring, but he did not. I think it makes a lot of sense to utilize Gunn as the kickoff specialist.

I am hesitant to put Hauser on too much of a pedestal because he is just a freshman, but he could evolve into a very good placekicker. I favor putting him in the starting role this season, though I do worry about that a bit. When young players make a mistake, it can snowball on them. I think Hauser’s talent makes that a risk worth taking.

One constant in the return game over the past few seasons was Will Shipley, who will now be taking his specialties to Philadelphia. The two obvious names for returns are Antonio Williams and Tyler Brown. Both are talented players who have experience returning punts. Williams also has been on kickoffs.

They are both good at returns, but probably more valuable to the offense as wide receivers. I’m torn on Clemson using them on special teams. On one hand, an injury to either could be catastrophic for the offense. On the other, both players are capable of flipping the field on one special teams play.

I think the likelihood of Williams and Brown playing special teams will depend on whether others step up in fall camp and show they can do the job. For now, though, I will defer to Brown taking punts and Williams being the primary kickoff returner.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Haynes will join Williams on kickoffs. He was in on a few kickoffs last year, returning one for 18 yards. He is a player that I believe the staff wants to get on the field, but maybe not enough to take Phil Mafah off the field. Kickoff returns would be an ideal way to get the ball in Haynes’s hands.