Position Analysis: TE's

CLEMSON, SC - As August camp continues, I will submit my assessment of each position group for the 2015 season. Here is a closer look at Clemson's tight ends as we head into the second week of practice.

Jordan Leggett

Leggett is on the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, honoring the nation’s best tight end--an award won by Dwayne Allen just a few years ago. The 6’5, 250-pound junior is expected to have a breakout year after two inconsistent seasons marred by injury. Leggett led the Orange & White Game with 7 receptions and a touchdown, and he has looked sharp thus far in August camp. Leggett has great size and speed, presenting a matchup problem for linebackers who aren’t fast enough and defensive backs who aren’t big enough to cover him. If Leggett can stay healthy the entire 2015 season, I expect him to be in the running for first-team All-ACC recognition.

Stanton Seckinger

Redshirt Graduate Stanton Seckinger is coming off a knee injury he suffered in the final regular season game against South Carolina last year. At 6’5 and 240 pounds, Seckinger might have the best hands of the group, and he has a penchant for scoring touchdowns in big games. He caught 4th quarter, game-winning touchdowns against a top-10 UGA team to begin the 2013 season and a top-10 Ohio State team to end the season. No other Clemson player has accomplished that feat. He also had a catch last season at #1 FSU that appeared to be a touchdown at first but was later ruled to be down at the goal line. Clemson is 6-0 when Seckinger scores a touchdown, and had that catch against FSU had made it across the goal line, it would be 7-0. If Seck can stay healthy, he provides another great target for QB Deshaun Watson.

Jay Jay McCullough

At 6’3 and 245 pounds, McCullough is probably the fastest of the tight ends, but he has been inconsistent over his career so far and occupied Coach Swinney’s dog house at times. However, McCullough has looked good after a week of camp and could figure prominently in Clemson’s offense this season—especially if injury should again befall either Leggett or Seckinger.

Cannon Smith

Coach Swinney and the rest of the offensive staff are very excited about redshirt freshman Cannon Smith. At 6’4 and 260 pounds, he has the best size of all the tight ends, and Swinney has been very pleased with how hard he worked to compete for playing time this season. Even veterans Leggett and Seckinger have been outspoken about how impressed they are with the youngster. Smith was ranked as the #7 TE in the nation by Scout.com and #235 player overall. ESPN had him ranked as the #3 TE in the nation. Without a doubt, he has the #1 name in the nation for tight ends.

Milan Richard

Another redshirt freshman, Milan Richard is 6’2, 245 pounds, and he was ranked as the #2 TE in the nation by ESPN (#195 overall). In addition to his own impressive superlatives, Richard has quite the pedigree—his uncle is the one and only Herschel Walker. Uncle Herschel has said that he wanted to play for Clemson, so perhaps he will be able to do that vicariously through his nephew this season.

Garrett Williams

6’3, 225-pound Garrett Williams is extremely talented, but the true freshman from Orlando will likely redshirt this season. Clemson has good depth at the tight end position, and Williams needs a year in the weight room. It will also probably take him some time to learn the offense. Coach Swinney said that next to the quarterback position, tight end is the most difficult position to learn in this offense. However, Garrett’s future is very bright with the Tigers. He was ranked by ESPN as the #2 TE in the nation and the #117 player overall, and his skills have already manifested in the first week of camp. Garrett’s father played for FSU in the infamous 1988 “puntrooskie game” at Clemson. He was the player who took the snap and put the ball between the legs of the Seminole upback, Leroy Butler. Perhaps Williams will be able to exact some measure of revenge against his father’s team over the next few years.

Coach Danny Pearman has a nice mix of veterans and talented youths with which to work this season. He has done an outstanding job as Clemson’s TE Coach since 2009. Pearman has coached three first-team ACC and NFL tight ends in Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford. Jordan Leggett or Stanton Seckinger could very well be the fourth if they can avoid more injuries. Pearman played TE for Clemson’s 1986 and 1987 ACC title teams, and a couple things his guys have had in common is that they are all hard-nosed players and have great hands. With two true freshmen getting significant playing time at the OT positions this season, hopefully the tight ends will be able to provide additional help in run blocking and pass protection when needed. Much is going to depend on whether Leggett and Seckinger can navigate the entire schedule without suffering any more injuries.

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