Clemson’s offensive coordinator knew his backup tight end was talented. A potential game-changer.
There was one slight problem: Dwayne Allen. As talented as Ford is, he wasn’t supplanting the John Mackey Award winner, who authored Clemson’s best-ever season by a tight end last fall.
“I learned a lot from (Allen),” Ford said of the current Indianapolis Colts rookie. “Being the next guy up. Coach Morris told me, ‘Give me another year to prepare you, get ready.’ I said, ‘I’ll be here. Don’t worry. I’m not going to transfer or anything. I always looked at it as I never knew when it could be my time.”
That time is now. Saturday night, Ford will make his debut as Clemson’s starting tight end, a huge milestone in a road that saw him arrive on campus as a wide receiver five years ago and switch positions to tight end two years ago.
“It wasn’t the story I thought when I first got here,” Ford said. “But in life things happen, they change, and sometimes you’ve got to adjust to it. It’s like a game.”
Even without the position change, Ford’s Clemson career began in turbulent fashion. Halfway through his redshirt year, the coach who recruited him – Tommy Bowden – was forced out. Morris is his third offensive coordinator, following Rob Spence and Billy Napier. He has also three four position coaches – Dabo Swinney, Jeff Scott and Danny Pearman.
Leaving was never an option, though. His persistence has paid off.
“I told myself if I transfer I’d be giving up, taking the easy road out,” he said. “Maybe if I stick around, things will happen, and things always come to those who put the time in. I kept grinding and grinding. I never looked back and said maybe it’s time for me to transfer. Now I’m in this position.”
Ford is far from a neophyte; he had 14 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown backing up Allen. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he isn’t the typical bruising tight end, but feels his frame fits in well with Clemson’s quick-tempo offense.
“I’m not a big, 270-pound tight end so one thing I obviously do is get the edge on each and every guy,” he said. “I harp on that, try and harp on other guys to do it too. I learn everything I can on film, what’s their technique, how they play, are they fast, do they go straight up the field. Take it from the classroom and go from there.”
Replacing Watkins: On Wednesday’s ACC teleconference, Swinney was asked how worried he was that Sammy Watkins’ absence due to suspension would tip the scales towards a loss against Auburn.
“Not worried about that, to be honest with you,” Swinney said. “It is what it is. If we're not good enough to win without Sammy Watkins, we're not good enough to win without him. It's not worth sitting and worrying about it. I'm very confident in the guys that we have to fill that void.
“I've said a few times, I don't think one guy replaces Sammy. But collectively, as a group, we can get that done. We've prepared for it. That's just where we are. Not worried about that at all. It's a game. The deal with Sammy is life. That's more important than a game. At the end of the day we've prepared our team. I'm very confident with the guys that we have. Here in a couple weeks, hopefully people will recognize the fact that we got other good players other than just Sammy Watkins.”