Dabo Swinney goes in-depth into surprise decision to bring back graduate kicker

On3 imageby:Matt Connolly09/19/23


Dabo Swinney ran out of options on his roster to fix Clemson’s kicking woes, so he turned to the beach. Swinney called up former Clemson kicker Jonathan Weitz on Sunday after Robert Gunn missed a field goal and an extra point against FAU over the weekend.

The Clemson grad student was living in Charleston when he heard from Swinney, who asked if Weitz would be interested in kicking for Clemson on Saturday against Florida State.

Weitz had not kicked a football since April, before Swinney called him on Sunday. He told the Clemson head coach that he would go out and kick a few balls and call Swinney back with an answer. Later that day, Weitz relayed that he was in.

“We went to the bullpen and called him off the beach,” Swinney said. “It’s either going to be a great story or it’s going to be terrible. It’s not going to be anything in between.”

Weitz was on the Clemson practice field on Monday and made 7 of his 8 attempts, according to Swinney. He has a job lined up in New York that he was set to start in two weeks. However, that is now on hold.

Swinney wants to see warm-ups on Saturday before officially naming a starter, but Weitz is the leading candidate to be the starting kicker as things stand.

“He’s got a boss up in New York probably pissed off,” Swinney said. “He spent the whole spring in France studying abroad and hanging out at the Eiffel Tower. Had a great summer, had his life planned out. He just rented an apartment in New York. He starts his job in two weeks, and he’s graduating with his Masters in December. And he gets a call from coach Swinney on Sunday, ‘Hey, you wanna come kick against the ‘Noles this weekend?’ And he’s just crazy enough to want to do it.”

It has been a rough start to the season for Robert Gunn, who is 1-for-4 on field goals. The freshman missed a pair of attempts against Duke in the opener, before bouncing back to connect from 23 yards out on his only attempt against Charleston Southern. However, he missed his only field goal attempt against FAU and also missed an extra point.

Swinney opened up the kicking competition when Gunn struggled in the loss to Duke, but he doesn’t have confidence in anyone else who was already on the roster because of what he saw in practice.

“We’ve got two other guys on the roster who just haven’t stepped up,” Swinney said. “They’ve had an opportunity the past two weeks and they ain’t got it done. They’ve not taken advantage of their opportunities.”

Long term, Swinney insists he still has a ton of faith in Gunn. But for now, it appears like Weitz is the guy. Weitz was 3-for-3 on PATs over the previous four seasons. He has not attempted a field goal in his career.

“He’s not just a guy off the street. I mean he is right now, but he was in our program for four years and was our backup the last two years. And a good backup,” Swinney said. “He’s pretty solid from about 45 in. … Appreciate the boss up in New York. Hopefully they’ve still got a job for him in January, but I guess he’s going to be paying rent for an apartment in New York for a few months. But we’ll see. We’re going to Syracuse next week, so maybe he can moonlight when we’re up there. I don’t know.”