Jordan Leggett's injury pushes grad student Darrell Smth into TE spotlight

Dabo Swinney says fifth-year 'fullback' is an essential part of Clemson's offense

Tiger fans, meet graduate student Darrell Smith.

You know, Clemson's fifth-year 'fullback' - a position that actually no longer exists in any traditional sense in the Tigers' offense.

Before the first of October, when the Tigers hope to have Sam Cooper back from his ACL injury, Clemson fans will get to know him well.

Dabo Swinney said on Wednesday that Smith, after Tajh Boyd, is perhaps the single most important piece of Clemson's offense (despite having caught just one pass for one yard in three seasons).

In the aftermath of a could-have-been-worse knee injury suffered on Wednesday by rising star Jordan Leggett, Swinney is not exaggerating Smith's importance.

The tight end position, whatever it's called, is an essential element of Chad Morris' offense. And without Cooper and Leggett - who midway through spring practice were 1-2 on the depth chart - the position is left in the hands of Stanton Seckinger and Smith, with Jay Jay McCullough now third in line.

The good news is that both Seckinger and Smith are good at what they do.

Smith performs his role - providing an extra point-of-attack blocker - as well as Chad Diehl did before him.

Seckinger, meanwhile, is next in line to become one of Clemson's dynamic pass-catching tight ends, in the Brandon Ford mold.

Leggett had a chance to do both jobs, as he showed in the spring when he gave the Tigers a Dwayne Allen-like downfield threat while getting a feel for the physical side of his position.

The Tigers' tight ends are also heavily involved in pass protection, and have to make reads and decisions as each play unfolds. There are few spots where the Tigers are so vulnerable to injuries.

The guess here is that Morris will adjust and find a way to make his offense work, with both Smith and Seckinger playing essential roles. They may not post the statistics that Clemson's tight ends have provided over the last two seasons, but their contributions will be no less critical.

The Tigers just need to weather the storm, because help is on the way.

And Darrell Smith's redshirt year is suddenly looking like the Clemson coaching staff's best decision ever.

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