Healthy Brandon Ford chasing Clemson TE records

Brandon Ford scores a touchdown in the second quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Brandon Ford scores a touchdown in the second quarter

Ford approaching TE record, final game in Death Valley

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— Now that Brandon Ford is healthy, he is showing why he was considered a worthy successor to Dwayne Allen in Clemson’s offense.

The senior tight end’s production dipped as he battled through a series of injuries, including a sprained ankle and bruised ribs. But Ford has seven catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Against N.C. State, he had what offensive coordinator Chad Morris called his best game, reeling in five passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-best 69-yarder.

“Brandon has been beat-up, he hasn’t been 100 percent healthy,” Morris said. “Therefore he hasn’t been playing as physical as he needed to play which has caused him not to have the production he needed to have. So it snowballs. He was physical as I’ve seen him. He made some critical catches at critical times in the game. And that was good to see. That’s a position that needs to perform at that type of level.”

Ford agrees that good health made a huge difference for him.

“It was just like injury after injury I was playing through. Last week I’d say I was about as healthy as I could get,” he said. “I just played more physical than I did before and you could tell my ability to run was way ahead because my ankle was healthy. I didn’t have to get a shot, and my ribs were just about healed. The past week, week and a half, I felt better than felt the past four weeks. It’s been a key to my success.”

Saturday night, Ford will be chasing a pair of Clemson program records. His eight touchdowns this season tie him with Allen for the single-season touchdown record for a tight end. Both are one ahead of former Pittsburgh Steeler Bennie Cunningham, who had seven in 1974. Ford and Allen also currently share the career tight end touchdown record with former Steeler John McMakin; all three players have 12. With a touchdown grab against South Carolina or in the bowl game, Ford will own both records outright.

He has 29 receptions for 398 yards and eight scores this season; entering this year, he had 25 career receptions for 248 yards and four scores.

It’s a great opportunity to be in that category with Dwayne (Allen) and Bennie Cunningham and be known as one of the great tight ends that was here,” Ford said. “I’ve got a chance to break the record and hold it for maybe a year or two. I’m sure one of the younger guys will break it, but right now I’ve got the opportunity.”

Breeland out: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confirmed Wednesday that sophomore cornerback Bashaud Breeland will miss Saturday’s game with a groin injury. Breeland suffered the injury while playing special teams against N.C. State. He has 32 tackles and three pass breakups this season, and also missed the Wake Forest game with an abdominal injury.

His absence leaves Clemson with three original scholarship cornerbacks: senior Xavier Brewer, sophomore Garry Peters and freshman Cortez Davis. Former walk-on Dante Stewart and receiver Adam Humphries pitched in against the Demon Deacons in Breeland’s absence.

“We’re going to need a great performance from all those guys this week,” Swinney said.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows Steve Spurrier will go after his secondary.

“Sometimes corners aren’t challenged for a number of plays in a row,” Venables said. “When you start to relax, guys can run by you. (South Carolina) is as capable of any team we play of doing that and I know coach Spurrier is well aware of that. So we’ll be challenged that way.”

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