The tight end trend

CLEMSON - There was a time when the tight end position played a secondary role in the Clemson offense.

Over the last few seasons, the tight end has been an essential part of the Tigers' offense, not only for production, but also from a leadership standpoint.

Michael Palmer, who set a then single-season school record 43 receptions for 507 yards and four scores, started the trend in 2009. He's entering his third season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Dwayne Allen picked up where Palmer left off by finishing his three-year career with 93 receptions and 12 touchdowns, which tied the Clemson career record for a tight end. He won the Mackey Award and was named an All-American in 2011.

With Allen set to join Palmer in the NFL, it's Brandon Ford's turn to lead and produce results.

"It's more of a leadership, getting the younger guys ready," Ford said. "Now, the younger guys expect me to just lead and makes sure those guys take it from you. You don't want them going out there and thinking they can't do it. You just want to be that leader and show them.

"In the game, they're counting on you to do your job. Right now, I'm just practicing hard and getting the younger guys ready."

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt senior has 25 catches for 248 yards and four touchdowns during his career.

Now, Ford noted, it's time for him to show more consistency.

"Not just catching the ball -- in the run game as well and getting to play every play, not just three plays and I'm tired," he said. "Just being more consistent like Dwayne was. The guy played like 60-80 snaps [a game] last year. I'm trying to work myself right there."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes Ford could be on his way to a career in the NFL.

"I think this is his year. When this thing's over, if he does what he's capable of doing, he's another guy who has a chance to go play on the next level," Swinney said.

Ford, who played wide receiver before moving to tight end in 2010, was rated by Scout.com as the No. 64 wide receiver in the class of 2008.

"Brandon was a tweener. Now he's a 240-pound guy who has got great ball skills and has made a ton of progress," Swinney said.

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