The next big thing

CLEMSON - There's a large void left behind at tight end with the graduation of Michael Palmer, and Dwayne Allen's ready to show that he's more than capable of filling it.

Last season, Palmer was second on the team with 43 receptions for 507 yards and tied for second with four touchdown catches. During his redshirt freshman season, Allen had 10 catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will rely on Allen as an important piece of the puzzle on offense this fall.

"We needed him to be one last year, and Dwayne made some big strides for us as a freshman," Swinney said. "He's one of those guys that are at another level right now, from where he was last year at this time. He was just swimming, trying to figure it all out."

To Allen, it's more than catching passes and scoring touchdowns. He's taking notice of the leadership role that Palmer occupied during much of his time at Clemson.

"I've got to take on the Mike Palmer role, as coach (Danny) Pearman likes to say," Allen said, "just to help bring (us) along."

This fall, he won't have to look too far to lead.

Along with Palmer, Clemson also loses tight ends Rendrick Taylor and Durrell Barry from last season's team. The Tigers have signed a pair of freshmen tight ends in Victor Beasley and Sam Cooper.

"The two guys coming in, we're going to need them," Allen said. "The earlier I can help get them ready, the earlier they can play."

Dwayne Allen, circa 2008, wouldn't have seen incoming freshmen as a means to achieving what's best for the team. Instead, he would've viewed them as barriers to his own achievements.

"I felt that I had to do this and this better than Mike," Allen said. "So I didn't start learning until halfway through the season. Then, I was like, ‘Dwayne, he's the starter. Learn from him.'" (Kevin Bray)
Allen admits that he struggled with that mindset, once viewing Palmer only as completion.

And it took the better part of his freshman season for him to learn that wasn't the best route.

"I felt that I had to do this and this better than Mike," Allen said. "So I didn't start learning until halfway through the season. Then, I was like, ‘Dwayne, he's the starter. Learn from him.'"

Upon his arrival to Clemson as a four-star and No. 8 ranked tight end he expected it would be easy for him to walk on campus and be ‘the man' at tight end.

Forget having to work and prove anything--that was already done.

Wasn't it?

"A lot of four- and five-star guys that come into division one programs think that," Allen said. "It's not given. You've got to work hard. You've got to earn it."

After his own bumpy start, Allen looks to relay that message to freshmen who enter with similar sized egos.

"I try to do it all the time, especially those guys that come in with a big head. I feel like we're going to have a few in this class, but I'll get it through to them," he said.

Outside of Drew Traylor and a pair of incoming freshmen, it would be easy for the old Dwayne Allen to sit back and coast his way into and through the 2010 season as the starting tight end. After all, he was named the 2010 starter before the 2009 season was over.

Palmer's even said he expects Allen to break any school tight end record he set.

"Right now, we have some senior leaders on the team, but I feel like if I were to step up as one of the leaders on offense, it would do our team a lot," Allen said. "That's all the motivation I need."

Swinney said Allen now better realizes the "big picture."

"He's had some success, made mistakes and been coached hard. He's much more mature as a player now."

As much as Allen still wants to shine in 2010, he'd rather the team shine brighter.

"I have no (personal) goals. What is it, 14-0? That's the only goal I want," he said. Top Stories