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2016 Clemson Football Season Preview: Tight Ends

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The tight end position re-emerged last season with the receiving prowess of Jordan Leggett and the physical play of true freshman Garrett Williams. Now, it's time to review what to expect from our 2016 tight end group.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In the smash mouth spread offense that Chad Morris brought to Clemson in 2011, it was noted how key the tight end was to the offense. The tight end is really asked to be quite versatile, and do so in a HUNH setting, which means that subbing out to get the correct personnel in typically isn't an option. Our TE may be asked to flex out wide and run routes, block defensive backs in space, or even block a defensive end or linebacker on a run play. Finally, our tight ends can set up in the backfield and wham block on zone reads or slip out on a route during play action.

2015 saw a resurgence of the tight end position with the play of Jordan Leggett. While the man known as Whiffles sometimes struggled to be a physical blocker, he was effective in the passing game and had some good moments blocking in space against DBs. Garrett Williams also had some awesome moments as a blocker last year, but did not register a reception during the season. Other tight ends logged some snaps, but were not key contributors like the aforementioned Leggett and Williams.

Departures

Stanton Seckinger (6'4'', 240, Graduated): Stanton was always more of a receiving target than blocker during his time at Clemson. He came to Clemson as a low 3* WR prospect that we eventually molded into a receiving TE. Unfortunately for Stanton, 2 things happened which hindered his effectiveness in the offense.

1) He suffered a terrible knee injury that he never fully recovered from.

2) The coaches failed to realize he couldn't block my grandmother on a bullet blitz but still used him in blocking schemes anyways.

Stanton leaves Clemson after completing his degree and leaving us still with some awesome memories such as his game clinching TD in the UGA game to start the 2013 season. Best wishes to him moving forward and congrats on joining the faithful of Clemson Alumni.

2016 Returnees

Jordan Leggett (6'5'', 255, Senior, 2015 Stats: 40 Catches, 525 Yards, 8 TD, 892 Snaps): Leggett will be heavily relied upon this season as a receiving target. Last year, he found a solid role in the red zone with the absence of Mike Williams by reeling in 8 TDs. While he can still improve as an in line blocker, his blocking in space improved drastically over his Freshman and Sophomore efforts. Leggett earned numerous accolades following the 2015 season and has also began to receive similar acclaim during this offseason. Leggett has all of the tools to be a complete TE, and now is his final opportunity to showcase them before heading pro.

2016 Season Expectations: Lead the ACC in receptions, yards, and TDs by a TE and earn all-conference honors. Be in the conversation for All American Honors and the Mackey Award. Potentially sack up and realize he's big enough to actually hit someone who is not a DB.

Garrett Wiliams (6'2'', 235, Sophmore, 2015 Stats: 0 Receptions, 0 Yards, 0 TD, 92 Snaps): Williams is best remembered for his wolloping block on Reggie Ragland in the national championship game.

Yeah, doing that as a true freshman will get you noticed, especially when the guy you're blowing up is a first-round draft pick. Garrett undoubtedly proved himself as a willing in line blocker, but he lacks the versatility right now to line up in space and be a true receiving threat. Hopefully the coaches will groom him as the season progresses, as he will be locked in a battle with many others to replace Leggett as the man next year.

2016 Season Expectations; Continue to blow up linebackers and defensive ends in blocking assignments and hopefully get more involved in the passing game. Definitely will log 150+ snaps even in a sole blocking role.

Milan Richard (6'2'', 250, RS Sophomore, 2015 Stats: 0 Rec, 0 Yards, 0 TD): Admittedly, I was very high on Richard last season as I thought he could work his way into the #2 role behind Leggett due to rave reviews from the spring and the fact that he is made of granite. Sadly, Richard logged minimal snaps, mostly in mop up duty, and did not have a pass targeted his way. He offers greater versatility than any tight end on the roster not named Jordan Leggett, but still needs to put it all together. This year will be very telling for Richard; we'll see if he can really become a big piece of the offense moving forward, or fall by the wayside and be passed by younger guys on the roster.

2016 Season Expectations; Finally start playing like Tarzan rather than Jane and begin to position himself as a replacement for when Leggett departs.

Cannon Smith (6'5'', 260, RS Sophomore, 2015 Stats: 0 Rec, 0 Yards, 0 TD, 29 Snaps): Smith came to Clemson as a somewhat under the radar, yet still coveted, jumbo TE prospect. Many thought early on that Smith's intended position may actually be somewhere on the offensive line rather than TE, but he stuck it out at TE and has began to assert himself as a physical in line blocker. He was most used in the goalline jumbo package last season and, while he was not targeted for a pass, he did make a nice reception on a corner route in the spring game.

2016 Season Expectations: Continued role in the jumbo packages and begin to learn how to play in space.

D.J. Greenlee (6'2'', 245, RS Junior, 2015 Stats: Thud Guy): Ever hear the phrase, "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all?"....well, I don't really have much nice to say about Greenlee. I suppose he can offer some special teams help and be the occasional relief to Williams as a blocker, although not nearly on the same level as Williams or any other TE on the roster in any regard.

2016 Season Expectations: Well, 2 years down, 2 to go on this 5 heart engagement.

The Newcomers

Shadell Bell (6'2'', 215, RS Freshman): Although Bell is not a newcomer to Clemson, he is a newcomer to this position. Bell played WR all of high school and on scout team last year, but with all of the depth that is currently at WR, Bell must have had a nice conversation with the coaches and either made the jump to TE in a quest for playing time or was ushered there as a science project. Either way, Bell lacks significant weight to really be a factor this season in playing time, but will more than likely play some special teams.

2016 Season Expectations: The 2016 is bulking season for Bell, as well as taking time to learn the nuances of a brand new position.

J.C. Chalk (6'4'', 230, Freshman, Argyle, TX, 3*): Chalk comes to Clemson from Argyle, TX and is the grandson of former Alabama coach Gene Stallings. Any player from Texas is a rare get for Clemson and even though he does not carry the 5* weight as a major signing coup, he still offers some great upside as a good all around TE. Not exceptional at one thing but just does all of the various TE skills well.

2016 Season Expectations: Due to the log jam in front of him at TE, Chalk will use this season as a redshirt year to gain scout team experience and adjust to the speed and physicality of the game at this level.

Summary

As the TE goes, so does this offense. A good TE for our smashmouth spread is a Swiss Army Knife of sorts, being able to do many things well and doings them well and often on the fly. 2014 saw this group underperform to both their expectations and their talent level. 2015 was a stellar year but there is definitely room for improvement as our TE's still have some clear strengths and weaknesses from player to player. But the arrow is pointing up and, with continued development, we can expect big things from this group.