Clemson, struggling with field goals, brings in kicker from campus

Clemson kicker Alex Spence (41) winds up for a field goal attempt during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse upset Clemson 27-24. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

A critical injury that was a bit overlooked at the time was when Clemson kicker Greg Huegel suffered a torn ACL during practice last month.

Since then, Alex Spence has been the team’s kicker but has connected on just two of his six field goal tries. In the 27-24 loss at Syracuse last week, Spence went 1-of-3, missing badly from 35 and 38 yards, prompting coach Dabo Swinney to open things up at the position. He even put in a call to a Clemson student, Drew Costa, who once tried out for the team.

Yes, really.

From The Post and Courier:

Wednesday, the Clemson football coach said that he had made a phone call to former Bishop England kicker Drew Costa to invite the Charleston native to come try out for the football team. Costa previously tried out either two or three seasons ago — Swinney wasn’t sure which — and the Tigers kept his name in mind. Now, they’re finally using it.

“I told him he’s on a day-to-day contract, kick-to-kick contract. You know in the NBA, they’ve got them 10-day contracts. I said, ‘You’re on day-to-day, kick-to-kick,'” Swinney said. “He actually tried out like two years ago or three years ago and we really liked him in the fall, we just didn’t have a spot. So we inventoried him, what we call “inventory,” and we said, ‘You know, we’re going to bring him out in the spring.’ And so then we bring him back in the spring and he had like hernia surgery so he couldn’t kick, couldn’t do anything. And that’s when we found (Greg) Huegel.”

Swinney said Costa has joined the team for practice this week to compete with Spence and walk-on Christian Groomes to fill a big void left by Huegel, who was injured on a field goal attempt during practice in late September. Swinney said Huegel’s injury was a “freak accident on the last play of practice.”

Huegel, who joined the program in 2015 as a walk-on after watching the Tigers from the stands in 2014, was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2016. He was in his third season as the team’s top kicker when he went down with the injury.

Now, with Huegel sidelined, Swinney is getting a bit desperate. Above all, he’s hoping Spence, a redshirt junior, can push through “that mental hurdle.”

“Alex hasn’t had a lot of work. I think it’s a big task. We know he’s been around here, he hasn’t played, so he’s just got to punch through that mental hurdle. But physically he can do it,” Swinney said. “I know he made a couple bad kicks the other night that didn’t even look like kicks, but that’s not him. It’s really not.”

Clemson, now 6-1 and ranked No. 7, is off this week before returning to action against Georgia Tech on Oct. 28.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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