Tight Ends Set Goal of 70 Receptions

CLEMSON – When describing tight ends Thomas Hunter and Akeem Robinson, the word stabilize immediately comes to mind, for the two have balanced, steadied and strengthened the offense.

Baring any unforeseen problems, Hunter and Robinson should be lined up on opposite ends of the offensive line for the entire season, which is something the offense greatly lacked a year ago.

Bobby Williamson and Cole Downer were supposed to be used extensively in the offense last year, but due to injuries and other issues, neither were on the field that much, which allowed Hunter to come in at the midway point and stake claim to the position.

Now, Hunter and Robinson seem to be the perfect mix of what offensive coordinator Rob Spence wants out of that position, which is something the offense sorely lacked last season.

In other words, they have stabilized the offense. Hunter is the anchor, while Robinson has earned the praise of his teammates and coaches for his dramatic improvement.

"I think the most improved guy maybe on the whole offensive side of the football is Akeem Robinson," tight ends coach Billy Napier said. "He's just a business-type guy. I tell him what I want and he does it. He's one of those guys you love to coach."

Hunter, a senior, has been somewhat taken aback by the drastic improvement in Robinson to catch the ball. Robinson had a hard time even catching a cold last year, let alone a football.

But after having a full year on the offensive side, his hands are no longer an issue.

"People are going to be surprised," Hunter said. "He's night-and-day, even from the spring. He worked so hard this summer his hands have really improved. He's going to be a big-time contributor to this offense."

The improvement wasn't just something that happened by accident for Robinson. He worked extremely hard all offseason to improve in every facet of the game.

"I think I've come a long ways, but I think I have a longer way to go," he said. "My hands have gotten better. I just wanted to do that because I wanted to be another threat in this system and not just be a blocking threat."

"I think I've come a long ways, but I think a longer way to go," Robinson said. "My hands have gotten better. I just wanted to do that because I wanted to be another threat in this system and not just be a blocking threat."
As far as Hunter is concerned, he's without question the leader of the tight ends. He has very little weakness in his game physically and mentally.

"He's like a coach on the field," Napier said. "He knows the offense inside and out. He understands every concept and sees things other guys can't see. … Our guys are trying to be more like Thomas Hunter."

There's little doubt that Hunter was the team's best tight end the second half of last season after beginning the year as someone who wasn't expected to get much playing time.

However, his dedication and work paid off and now he's expected to shoulder a big load offense this season. But Hunter is counting on his teammates to be just as productive.

"Our goal is 70 balls as a group for the tight ends," Hunter said. "We want to split them all up and spread the balls around."

The wildcard with the tight ends is redshirt freshman Durrell Barry, who is still learning much of the schemes and techniques of being a tight end.

Napier said Barry has progressed far enough that he is now on the second team in a one tight end offense behind Hunter. In the two tight end offense, he is behind Hunter and Robinson.

"Durrell is still struggling with his physicality," Napier said. "He's a great receiver, but his weakness is his blocking. He's got the hip strength and athletic ability to be a great blocker, but he's just got to learn. But the lights will come on and he'll get it just like Akeem got it."

Napier added that Alex Pearson, who is listed as a fullback on the roster, will also see time at tight end.

He also said he's looking for two more tight ends to see playing time, but is unsure at this point who they will be, although Paul Muse is expected to be one of them.

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