CLEMSON - CLEMSON – Clemson is in the market for another “grocery store” kicker.
Clemson placekicker Greg Huegel suffered a torn ACL while attempting a field goal on the final play of practice on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season.
Coach Dabo Swinney, who joked two years ago that he discovered Huegel kicking a can in a grocery store parking lot, confirmed Huegel's injury and prognosis Thursday afternoon.
"It was a freak accident on the last play of practice," Swinney said. "We were in the two-minute drill, which we do at the end of every Wednesday practice. A defensive player rolled into him after his kick. He walked off the practice field and we hoped it was just a strain or a bruise, but the tests revealed a torn ACL.
"It's a big loss. We are talking about a two-time all-conference kicker."
The loss of Huegel could hamper Clemson’s hopes for a return trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game and the College Football Playoff, particularly if close-game scenarios unfold.
Or, another star could be born.
Redshirt junior Alex Spence, who is Huegel’s backup on the Tigers’ depth chart, has little experience, but is a scholarship player. The Florence native has kicked off only twice this season and has not attempted a field goal, but did convert an extra point in Clemson's season-opening 56-3 win over Kent State.
After the Shrine Bowl selection redshirted his freshman season in 2014, he appeared two games in 2015, making his first career extra point in a win against Wofford and logging one kickoff against Appalachian State. Last season Spence had seven kickoffs.
Christian Groomes, a junior out of nearby Daniel High, is listed third on the Tigers' depth chart. Groomes has never attempted a field goal in a game at Clemson, but has two kickoff this season, including one for a touchback.
He had a kickoff in a 59-0 win against S.C. State in 2016 and booted his first and only career extra point in a 54-0 win against Syracuse.
"I have confidence in our kickers," Swinney said. "Alex Spence will move up. He is in his fourth year with our program and has shown great improvement this year. He really had a good August camp."
In an Aug. 12 scrimmage, Spence made all four of field goals, including a 51-yarder.
Huegel is in his third season as the Tigers’ kicker and has made 43 of 55 career field goal attempts, including a school-record 18 consecutive during one stretch that spanned the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
He was 2-for-4 this season and made both attempts in Saturday night's 47-21 victory at Louisville, including a career-long 49-yard field goal.
Huegel, a junior from Blythewood, joined the team as a walk-on in 2015 and made a splash in his first season, making a nation-leading 27 field goals and earning first-team Freshman All-America honors by USA Today. He set a Clemson single-season record with 138 points that year.
Huegel was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last season after making 14-of-19 field goals and earning second-team All-ACC honors.
Huegel's injury marked the second consecutive day that Swinney reported a season-ending injury. On Tuesday, freshman backup defensive end Logan Rudolph suffered a shoulder injury that will require season-ending surgery.
Swinney also reported that Cole Renfrow, a tight end and younger brother of starting wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, suffered a torn ACL that was not football related. Cole appeared in the Kent State game, but hadn't played since.
© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved