CLEMSON — At Porter-Gaud School, 50 to 75 students showing up for a game was, in Stanton Seckinger’s words, “an unbelievable turnout.”
The 870-student private school – located on the banks of Charleston’s Ashley River – counts comedian Stephen Colbert as an alumnus but is far better known for its academics; tuition runs between $15-18,000 annually.
So you can understand why Seckinger was “a little nervous” Saturday afternoon.
The 78,000 fans who packed Clemson’s home opener against Ball State were by far the biggest crowd the redshirt freshman tight end has ever played in front of.
Seckinger showed he belonged, catching two passes for 27 yards in the Tigers’ 52-27 rout of the Cardinals.
“I was really surprised at how calm I was,” Seckinger said. “….Once you get in there, you’ve done the reps over and over again and it just kind of kicks in and your instincts go to work.”
Saturday marked the latest step in Seckinger’s ongoing transition from undersized wide receiver to an athletic tight end. Two years ago, current starter Brandon Ford made the same switch, which gives Seckinger an excellent blueprint.
“I certainly hope so,” Seckinger said. “Brandon Ford is obviously an unreal athlete. He’s been able to make this transition very well. Just since I moved to tight end, he’s helped me a lot as far as coming along with the position, and the knowledge of the offense in general. He’s almost been like a big brother to me as far as that tight end group goes, and Sam Cooper has helped out a lot as well.”
In Chad Morris’ offense, tight end serves an integral role. Dwayne Allen – now with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts – set program position records for catches, yards and touchdowns a year ago and won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.
Ford had 14 receptions for 166 yards and three scores as his backup, and already has eight catches for 76 yards through two games.
“Seeing the success that Brandon’s having going from wide receiver to tight end, it gives it a good positive view on making the switch, and that the outcome could be pretty good,” Seckinger said. “If I could ever get to his level, I’d be satisfied because he’s an unbelievable athlete.”
Last fall, Seckinger sat out as a redshirt, which he admitted wasn’t easy, but the best decision for his development.
“Now that it’s over, it helped me tremendously physically and mentally, that whole part of the game, just being used to being here,” he said. “Going into this camp as far as camp my freshman year as far as my confidence, I felt way more comfortable going into it.”
He arrived at Clemson as a wide receiver, but given the depth there, coaches approached him before spring practice about moving to tight end, Seckinger said he was “all into it.”
Blocking is the biggest hurdle in transitioning from wide receiver to tight end; wide receivers block in the open field, while tight ends often serve as an extension of the offensive line.
“Moving to tight end, you have to understand the whole chemistry of the offensive line and how everyone moves, the whole concept of how many people in the box, how you block those different things. As a wide receiver, you’re split out, you don’t think about all that stuff. And to be honest, that whole mechanics of the game that aspect has been a huge difference as far as the position change.”
Seckinger has gone from 190 pounds when he arrived last summer to 210 now, but he admits his blocking still needs work
“Having the weight helps, but technique, weight and strength are huge aspects of blocking,” he said. “It’s something I’ve had trouble with so far in the spring and summer, having to compete with defensive ends. My weight can’t shoot up like that, I have to rely on technique. And to be honest my technique’s not that good. “
To be fair, Seckinger made the transition to tight end a year earlier than Ford did. He remains early in his transition, but the growing kid from the small school has someone well worth looking up to.
“You look at someone like Brandon Ford, he’s a senior, he’s experienced, he’s comfortable with being out there,” he said. “You can tell when you watch him play, he makes those blocks, makes those catches, he’s an all-around perfect tight end for this offense.”