Dabo's biggest concern

CUTigers publisher Roy Philpott asks Clemson's head coach about his biggest offseason concern. With so many weapons returning and expectations higher than ever, what could it be?

It's hard to remember a time when expectations have been higher, legitimately, than they are right now.

Clemson has won 10 or more games for four straight seasons, beating college football behemoths Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU and others along the way.

Still, the Tigers aren't a team without flaws.

Defensive play-caller Brent Venables has to replace the majority of his front seven, including as many as five picks set to be taken in the next week's NFL draft. The health of superstar sophomore QB Deshaun Watson, right or wrong, will continued to be questioned until he completes a 12-game regular season unscathed.

There are also questions at punter and depth concerns at linebacker and the schedule is fairly daunting with Notre Dame, Florida State, Georgia Tech and a Thursday night right road trip to Louisville on the docket.

But none of those perceived issues are really on Dabo Swinney's list of top concerns entering this fall.

In fact, I asked Dabo last week what his biggest concern entering the heart of the offseason would be… and his answered surprised me.

"My biggest concern right now is getting our tight ends back where they need to be," notes Clemson's head man. "Now, that's going to happen with [Stanton] Seckinger getting back and now that we've got Jay Jay McCullough coming back too. It hurt us this spring not having Milan Richard available too. So we need to get that position solidified and I know we will."

The tight end position has been a major strength of Clemson's offense in recent years, of course.

Going back to All-ACC performer Michael Palmer, who just retired after a successful five-year stint in the NFL, to Colts star Dwayne Allen to All-ACC tight end Brandon Ford, the Tigers have gone through the most successful six seasons at the tight end position in school history.

Last year was a bit of an anomaly as Jordan Leggett was expected to emerge as a go-to target for Cole Stoudt and Watson… but it never really happened. The staff wanted more physicality from Leggett as a blocker and more reliability in the downfield passing game. There were flashes of brilliance, but never the kind of consistency that was truly needed for Clemson's offensive staff.

Leggett again figures to be central in the Tigers' plans and should be backed up with plenty of talent- including Seckinger, Richard and even Cannon Smith. With McCullough returning to the team after being suspended late last year, that's even more depth to help ease any long-term concerns at the position.

Interestingly enough, also on Dabo's short list of concerns is field goal protection.

"We had big Kalon Davis and David Beasley anchoring our field goal protection the last couple of years and nobody ever noticed because they were so good," Swinney said. "We had four or five blocks during spring and that's something we are going to have to clean up. You don't notice guys like that until they leave so that's something we have to figure out as well and we will."

If the Tigers are going to live up to the massive hype already surrounding them this offseason, look for them to focus on these two areas during the early stages of preseason camp. Not surprisingly, the personnel is certainly there to make it happen.

And an the grand scheme of things, if these are the two main areas needing work entering 2015, that's not such a bad thing, right?

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