CLEMSON -- Dabo Swinney thought he found his kicker early last season.
Against Boston College last fall on a rain-soaked afternoon, Richard Jackson appeared to alleviate the Clemson coach's concerns about his kicking game.
Jackson bailed out a stagnant offense by tying a school record with six field goals in six attempts. Jackson was good from 23, 33, 32, 52, 42 and 35 yards.
Even Mother Nature couldn't ice Jackson as the game paused twice for lightning delays. It was the highlight of Jackson's impressive first half of the season, when he connected on 17 of 23 attempts.
But since the second half of last season, Jackson's performance has spiraled downward. Jackson made only three of eight attempts in the season's second half. He was replaced briefly by backup Spencer Benton against Florida State, and benched a week later against N.C. State for an academic violation. This week Jackson found himself listed as the team's third kicker on the updated depth chart.
Redshirt freshman Chandler Catanzaro, who walked on last summer, will likely begin the season as Clemson's No. 1 kicker Saturday against North Texas.
"I kind of forgot about the things that were making me successful," Jackson said. "I was getting a little antsy, not being comfortable, especially in the Florida State game. In the back of my mind was 'Florida State blocks kicks -- that's what they do.' I got a little rushed as opposed to being comfortable.
"I've got to make sure this coming year to dial in the entire time and don't forget the little details."
Jackson's summer became more stressful when his father underwent open heart surgery last week.
"Richard is like a good golfer that's gotten in a bit of a slump," Swinney said. "We're going to play our best guys. I told Richard I'm not giving up on him. I'm not counting him out. I guarantee we're going to need that sucker at some point along the way, and he'll be ready."
Even if Jackson doesn't immediately regain the No. 1 kicker position, Swinney will count on him or Benton for long field goals as Swinney says Catanzaro doesn't have their range.
Swinney needs a steady kicker.
Clemson already suffered a major special teams hit with the loss of returner extraordinaire, C.J. Spiller. A shaky kicking game could make close games fall in opponents' favor.
"The other guys have been real good and I came out rusty," Jackson said. "I've tried to put it together on the fly, and I've made a lot of progress and I'm close. But close doesn't necessarily count. I have to keep working."
Swinney compared Catanzaro's ascendance from obscurity to another once unknown: Buster Douglas, who shocked heavyweight champ Mike Tyson 20 years ago in Tokyo.
Tyson never got another shot at Douglas. Jackson, a senior, is hoping for one more chance at redemption.
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