Isn't this everyone's favorite off-season question? In Rob Spence's first year as Clemson's offensive coordinator in 2005, Clemson's tight ends combined to catch 28 passes. In 2006 three tight ends combined to catch 23 passes. Last year Michael Palmer and Brian Linthicum caught 25 passes between them while Barry added one reception to the push the total to 26. Notice a trend? Clemson is usually going to throw about 30-35 passes in the direction of the tight end every year- or about three times a game. Given the proven commodities coming back at other positions this year, chances are those numbers won't increase too much in 2008.
#5. What's up with Durrell Barry?
Barry was expected to have a breakout season in 2007 but for whatever reason the light still didn't come on and he only saw action in seven games, recording just one catch along the way. That's a far cry from his 66 receptions for 1,126 yards and 11 touchdowns playing as a wide receiver during his senior season at Ft. Dorchester. Widely viewed as a talented tight end with good hands and above-average athletic ability, Barry has come nowhere close to living up to his potential in his three seasons at Clemson. Could 2008 be the year he turns the corner?
You remember Dwayne Allen- right? He's the four-star tight end who pulled the switcharoo on signing day- coming on board with Clemson after his high school coach would seemingly only allow him to sign with Georgia. Allen steps into a situation where three players, possibly four if you include Barry, will sit ahead of him on the depth chart the minute he steps foot on campus. Yes the Tigers use as many tight ends in as many formations as any team in the history of college football- but could he be best served by redshirting his freshman year? Or is he too talented to keep on the bench? Preseason camp holds the answer.
#2. Which tight end is the "best of the bunch?"
That's a difficult question to answer considering each tight end brings a different skill to the table. Receiving-wise it's Palmer. He caught more passes for more yards last season than anybody else. He's also the biggest target for QB Cullen Harper, standing in at 6-feet-5 inches tall and just a shade over 245 pounds. Blocking-wise, it's hard to ignore Akeem Robinson. The 6-4, 260-pound graduate student can be devastating at the point of attack and will be counted on in that capacity more than ever this season.
#1. Can the tight ends collectively help the offensive line through the first part of the season?
Given the fact that Clemson can use two, even three tight ends in the game at any given time, the tight ends could play a role in easing the burden of the development of a young offensive line in the first part of the year. That means providing tackles Chris Hairston, Cory Lambert and Antoine McClain help in pass blocking and also being physical at the point of attack in short-yardage and goal line situations to help open holes for James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Sure, it's reasonable to expect a couple of big plays from the tight ends in the passing game, but their unsung work in the trenches could go a longer way to getting Clemson its first ACC Championship in 17 years.