Tight Ends Assume Critical Role

CLEMSON – Ever since Tommy Bowden took over as head football coach, fans have been screaming for him to incorporate the tight end more into the passing game. Well, they finally have their wish.

New offensive coordinator Rob Spence said in the past, his tight ends have accounted for at least 15 percent of his team's total offensive output.

Don't expect that to change this year.

"If it's 15 percent, that's 14 percent more than in the past," Bowden said. "But that's what you'd like. We have to somehow matriculate to that level. I think we have the talent to do it. They're just kind of unpolished gems that have kind of been in storage. They need to be polished off and they're not real polished right now and we've got to try and do that. But they're fully capable of handling that percentage of productivity from what I've seen."

There's no doubt that the trio of Bobby Williamson, Cole Downer and Thomas Hunter, and possibly freshmen Durell Barry and Paul Muse, will be main focuses of the offense this year.

No longer are they basically a second offensive tackle. They are honest to goodness real tight ends.

"Since I've been here, this is the most the tight ends have been involved in the offense, by far," Williamson, a redshirt senior, said.

"We're out there rep after rep after rep. It used to be you'd got out there 30 or 40 percent of the time. We're going to do our part and whatever Coach Spence and (tight ends) Coach (Jack) Hines ask us to do, we're going to try out best to get it done."

Even quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is excited about all the possibilities of actually having tight ends as targets.

"I think it's kind of a secret weapon," he said. "I'm serious. I think with Bobby, the real complete package is there and it presents some problems. With Bobby and Cole, they might be able to beat a safety, they can be linebackers and they can block down real well. So, it's kind of a secret weapon. … There's so many more opportunities for those guys. There in there more than half the time."

Williamson, who played as a second-team defensive end last year, is having the time of his life. He truly likes his new role. In fact, he's excited about what the future may have in store for him this year.

"We're having a lot of good times at tight end," he said. "I'll tell you, it's the most since I've been here. The overall depth is amazing and the talent we have at tight end. … Even if we had a lot of depth at wide receiver, just the talent of the tight ends makes it kind of hard not to play us. I think it'd be kind of hard to ignore us. …

"We always related with the offensive line because we always blocked so much. But now we can relate with the wide receivers. I find myself asking (receiver) Chansi (Stuckey) tips on certain things to do when running routes, as the same I'll ask (lineman) Marion Dukes how to do certain technical blocking. Charlie's much more in tune with the tight ends now."

However, even though Williamson is enjoying his time on the field, it hasn't come without a price.

"I'd say anywhere on this offense is mentally hard, but especially at tight end," he said.

"It's a lot different that what the tight ends have been playing here. The tight end's role, up until Coach Spence was hired, was simplified with just a few routes and a few blocking assignments. Now, we're really involved in the offense and it is taxing mentally and physically, but I think we'll be able to get it done."

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