CLEMSON — Bradley Pinion has known all summer that he’d kick as a true freshman this fall.
He just didn’t know when.
“(Coaches) told me that, said you’re definitely going to play, definitely not going to redshirt,” Pinion said. “Your opportunity may come in the first game against Auburn, it may come in the sixth game.”
That opportunity pounced on Pinion Saturday, midway through the second quarter of the Tigers’ rout of Ball State. With normal kickoff specialist Spencer Benton on the field, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney came up to Pinion.
“He was like, ‘Go kick it, go kick it,’” Pinion recalled.
With a little help from teammate Daniel Rodriguez – who held the ball on the tee – Pinion booted the ball and officially burned his redshirt season. He hopes it’s only the beginning.
“It was a little nervewracking at first,” Pinion said. “I ran out there and the ball wouldn’t stay on the tee, which is the worst thing that could have happened. D-Rod came and held it and we got it out of the way. Since I got in high school, I knew I wanted to come here. It was a big relief, Mom said she cried when I hit it.”
It was the latest step in what Pinion calls a “great competition” between he and Benton. Pinion said that coaches suggested that one might serve as kickoff specialist vs. Furman, with the other as punter.
“It’s competition every week,” Pinion said. “On the field we’re head-knocking, off the field we’re best buds.”
Pinion also punted three times Saturday; his first career punt went 49 yards, and he finished with a 39-yad average.
“I’ve got to learn how to hit that 49-yard ball every single time,” he said. “I have too many of what I call shanks that don’t turn over and don’t go too far. I can’t have those. I’ve got to be more consistent. I feel like if I’m more consistent, I can win the job.”
Consistency key for Davis, too: Sophomore left guard Kalon Davis saw his first action of the season Saturday in relief of starter David Beasley, who was sidelined by a sprained MCL (he is likely to return this week).
Davis entered preseason camp as the starter but was leapfrogged by Beasley due to inconsistent play.
“Me and Beasley are in the same class, so he’s going to be here the same time I am. I have to use the opportunity to prove I can be on the field,” Davis said. “From the beginning, camp was big on me. If I was consistent, that’d be helpful to coaches proving you can be out there. It’s better to be consistent than showing irregular flashes.”
Film showed Davis that he has “room for improvement,” particularly on his hand placement and pad level.
“That was big for everyone getting snaps,” he said. “You have a chance to see yourself on film and see what you have to work on.”
Clemson-FSU set for an 8 p.m. kick: Clemson’s crucial Sept. 22 trip to Florida State has been set for an 8 p.m. kickoff with national telecast by ABC, the ACC announced Monday. It could also serve as the host site for ESPN’s popular “College GameDay” pregame show, assuming No.11 Clemson beats Furman and No.5 Florida State beats Wake Forest this weekend. It will be the second consecutive Clemson-FSU night kickoff in Tallahassee; the Seminoles beat Clemson 16-13 two years ago on Dustin Hopkins’ 55-yard field goal as time expired.
Benton ACC specialist of the week: was named the ACC specialist of the week Monday. Benton nailed an ACC record 61-yard field goal against Ball State Saturday. There have been only five field goals of 60 yards or more at the FBS level this century. In addition, Benton averaged 43 yards on two punts, had four touchbacks in five kickoffs and held on placekicks (except for, of course, his own).