Clemson entered 2022 with expectations of significant offensive improvement. They only had 2,485 total passing/receiving yards in 2021 (they had 4,182 in 2020), so while the tight ends played a sizeable role in that, their overall production was limited.
Davis Allen led the way for Clemson TEs in 2021 with 28 receptions for 208 yards and 3 TDs. Braden Galloway began the season as the starter, but struggled immensely with about as many drops as receptions. He ended the year with only 14 receiving yard after being passed on the depth chart and then injured. Jake Briningstool showed flashes as a freshman giving us optimism for what he could do in 2022.
Given some of the known weaknesses at wide receiver and returning talent at tight end, we expected Clemson to have their most productive TE room since the departure of Jordan Leggett following the 2016 National Championship. While that sounds like huge expectations, the lack of production from the tight ends in the five years since then actually made those expectations quite reasonable.
Davis Allen: 39 rec, 443 yards, 5 TDs
Jake Briningstool: 25 rec, 285 yards, 4 TDs
Sage Ennis: 2 rec, 17 yards
Luke Price: 1 rec, 3 yards, 1 TD
The tight end group had a very productive year. They totaled 748 receiving yards and 10 TDs. That accounts for 23% of Clemson’s receiving yards and 42% of receiving touchdowns. In 2016, Jordan Leggett had 736 yards and 7 TDs on his own. Since then, the TE group has only topped 600 yards once and never reached double-digit TDs. This year’s tight ends met the high expectations we set for them.
Davis Allen had a great season and Briningstool, while still needing to improve his blocking, showed exactly what you’d hope for prior to ascending to the starting tight end in 2023. The only disappointment was the failure to utilize the tight ends even more. At times it seemed that the offense was focused on leveraging their strength here by using two TE sets or splitting Briningstool out wide. At other times the staff seemed to forget this advantage and lean on a beleaguered wide receiver corps.
Overall, the tight ends were one of the bright spots on a mostly frustrating offense.
Davis Allen has declared his intent to enter the 2023 NFL draft. He is projected as a late round pick. That will elevate Jake Briningstool into a starting role. Briningstool appears ready for the promotion and should be a major part of the passing offense in 2023.
Hopefully, the coaching staff is more dedicated to using him in a way that takes pressure off what may still be a fairly limited wide receiver group. Whether that means having two running backs and splitting him out wide in place of a wide receiver or simply targeting him more, he will be a weapon the Tigers should not be shy about leveraging.
The tight end group as whole will probably take a step back with Allen leaving, but Briningstool will have help as redshirt junior Sage Ennis returns and Josh Sapp comes off his redshirt year and enters the fray.