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2023 Clemson Football Review: Tight Ends

Like everything else with Clemson football, tight ends had some good, some bad, and plenty to grow from.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Clemson vs Kentucky Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a rollercoaster season, we’re now relooking at 2023 while seeing what 2024 can bring us. For tight ends, Jake Brinningstool was obviously, and still is, the guy to watch. In the preseason I talked about being excited to see the Garrett Riley offense use Jake as a weapon and, like with everything else with the offense in 2023, we saw some really good things along with some head scratchers from Brinny.

So, let’s look at the big numbers. Brinningstool finished 2023 with 50 catches for 498 yards. This is more than his predecessor, Davis Allen, ever had in one season (39 catches for 443 yards in 2022) and similar to Jordan Leggett’s 2015 season (40 catches, 525 yards). Allen is currently playing for the Rams and Leggett was a fifth round pick who played four years in the league, so overall this is pretty good company to be in. It would be great to see Brinny explode in 2024 like Leggett did in 2016, where he went for over 700 yards and was an essential piece in Clemson winning the national championship.

Brinny had some big games (Miami, NC State, and Kentucky), some good showings (FSU, Wake, UNC) and then some games where he kind of was missing (South Carolina, Duke, Syracuse). This is bound to happen as some teams matchup better on tight ends than others. Even Leggett had some quiet games in 2015, but in 2016 put up more consistent numbers, breaking 30 yards in all but two games. This is the next step I want to see Brinny take. There’s other factors in the offense that can affect this. While Deshaun Watson liked using Leggett as the security blanket, Cade Klubnik is quick to dump things off to the running back. If we see Brinny get more consistent separation along with Cade calming down in the pocket, they could really combine to do some major damage against opposing defenses. I’m glad we got to see Cade lean on Brinny throughout the Gator Bowl and on the game winning drive. That gives me hope for what they can do in 2024.

With the injury to Sage Ennis (who’s now transferring to play for Tony Elliott at Virginia), we saw some of the young tight ends get some burn. While the stats from them are modest, there were cool moments like Josh Sapp catching the final two-point conversion in Gator Bowl to put Clemson up 3. Olsen Patt-Henry also had a 25 yard catch in the Gator Bowl. I’m definitely going to be tuning into the spring game seeing what those two, along with Markus Dixon and last year’s spring game hero, Banks Pope, can do in year 2 of Garrett Riley.