The tight end's role in the Clemson offense, which appeared lesser in the spread, was a perception Chad Morris had to fight to keep players on campus…and then recruit.
But the production the last two years speaks for itself: former Tiger tight end Dwayne Allen winning the Mackey Award (best TE) and then getting drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 and Brandon Ford matching his touchdown-record (8) and landing with the New England Patriots after 2012.
Still, while the impact is there – the role diminished without a pair of top options last season, and that’s likely due to continue this season with Sam Cooper’s ACL injury.
Clemson TE Production in Offense
2011: 616 yards, 19.8% of total RecY/21% of catches (Allen – 50 catches/598 yards/8 TDs)
2012: 608 yards, 14.5% of total RecY/17% of catches (Ford – 40 catches/480 yards/8 TDs)
The Tigers aren’t exactly alone in the tight end role taking a step back for ’13.
All but two teams didn’t have a tight end make up more than 12 percent of their yards and only four teams have one returner who even topped 300 receiving yards last season.
The individual returning leaders…
Top-3 ACC Active Leaders – Receptions/Yards
1. Eric Ebron (UNC) – 50 catches/832 yards
2. Clive Walford (Miami) – 43 catches/623 yards
3. Nick O’Leary (FSU) – 33 catches/416 yards
Projecting the ACC TEs
(If you haven’t been around with us before, the rankings are based on production/field impact – not a straight measure of their abilities like a NFL draft board. We’re looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers.)
1) UNC – Eric Ebron
Outlook: Standing 6’4 245, rising junior Eric Ebron was not only the ACC’s top tight end last season, but also was one of the best receivers in the conference. Ebron was second on the Tar Heels in receiving yards (625) and touchdown receptions (4).
2) Miami – Clive Walford
Outlook: In a rather lacking ACC tight end group, Walford’s team-best (min. 15 catches) 18 yards per catch last season stands out – also tying for the team-lead in touchdown receptions (4). The Hurricanes have a QB that can keep feeding him the ball in senior Stephen Morris.
3) Virginia – Jake McGee
Outlook: The ‘Hoos actually have a couple options here in junior Jake McGee (374 yards/5 TDs)/Zachary Swanson (88 yards/1 TD in ’12) and were No. 3 in percentage of yards thrown to its TE1 last season (11.6).
4) Syracuse – Beckett Wales
Outlook: In a pass-happy scheme last season, Beckett Wales (6-3 230) was fourth on the Orange in receptions (35) and yards (389).
5) Florida State – Nick O’Leary
Outlook:Nick O’Leary is Jack Nicklaus’ grandson…in case you’ve never watched a televised Florida State game. He’s also a pretty decent tight end, grabbing three touchdowns and 21 catches for 252 yards last season.
6) Clemson – Jordan Leggett, Stanton Seckinger
Outlook: Clemson is turning to an all-underclassmen TE corps, which appears to be led by true freshman Jordan Leggett (6-6 235) after the spring. The Tigers will continue to throw it their way, but it’s natural to expect another step back and those yards more going to wide receivers.
7) N.C. State – Asa Watson
Outlook: Rising senior Asa Watson, as a backup last season, still hauled in 24 catches for 282 yards and a score. The Wolfpack won’t throw it as much this season, but the 6-3 target should be get plenty of looks.
8) Pittsburgh – J.P. Holtz
Outlook: Pittsburgh didn’t throw much returning starter J.P. Holtz’s way in 2012 (13-173 – 5.2 percent of the total rec. yards), but that should change a bit being the Panthers’ second-leading receiver back.
9) Virginia Tech – Ryan Malleck
Outlook: Ryan Malleck (6-4 248) started seven games as a sophomore and caught 17 balls, averaging 10.2 yards per catch. The tight end spot wasn’t a huge part of the offense last year, but like at Pittsburgh, he is also the second-leading receiver returning.
10) Duke – David Reeves, Braxton Deaver
Outlook: The tight end position wasn’t really a part of the Duke passing game last season, but they do return a pair with starting experience, in sophomores David Reeves and Braxton Deaver.
11) Maryland – David Stinebaugh
12) Boston College – Mike Giancone
13) Wake Forest – Spencer Bishop
Outlook: We’re now in the tier of offenses that either didn’t pass much (Maryland), were up-and-down in pass efficiency (Maryland/Boston College/Wake Forest) or didn’t really use the tight end at all (Wake Forest) last season. The Deacs’ Spencer Bishop had three catches for 26 yards in 2012 in an offense that’s used the fullback more of late (Tommy Bohanon – 23 catches/208 yards/5 TDs as a senior last season).
NA) Georgia Tech
Outlook: They are excluded from the rankings here as the tight end is not a part of the base offense in Atlanta.