Chad Morris has quite the résumé to point to for tight end prospects looking Clemson’s way.
In 2011, Dwayne Allen won the Mackey Award (nation’s top tight end), breaking new ground with a school record eight touchdowns at the position.
Brandon Ford backed it up with another eight-score year last season.
Jordan Leggett, Jay Jay McCullough and Stanton Seckinger are the first wave of underclassmen to see that success and come to TigerTown, and by circumstance, they will get even more of a chance to show out right away in 2013.
Junior tight end Sam Cooper went down with a torn ACL in the spring game, which is typically a season-ender. He made up 11 percent of Clemson’s tight end production with a pair of touchdowns over the last two seasons, but probably most importantly, the Tigers will miss his blocking presence (6-5 250).
“We've got to develop those guys in a hurry,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, wrapping up spring practice. “We've got to ramp their development up. We were kind of bringing them along because we had the luxury of doing that with a guy like Coop.
“We've got to force feed them a little bit more than maybe we would have. Athletically they're talented and capable of making a lot plays, but we're going to have to challenge them and grow them up in the running game.”
Leggett, a true freshman early-enrollee, was the talk of spring ball, coming in rated as high as No. 7 in the country (ESPN) with a 6-6 235 frame. Seckinger, a redshirt sophomore, is looking to follow the Brandon Ford model, converting from wide receiver into a top receiver threat in a different position. McCullough, a redshirt freshman, was rated one of South Carolina’s top prospects out of high school.
Breaking down Clemson tight end use under Morris…
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)
Projection – Brandon Rink (O&W)
2013 Outlook: Jordan Leggett - 18 catches/218 yards/3 TDs; Stanton Seckinger – 16 catches/152 yards/3 TDs; Jay Jay McCullough – 6 catches/65 yards/1 TD.
After two years of a clear No. 1 TE, it’s about as wide-open as can be with a youth-filled group for Morris.
Seckinger is listed atop the depth chart, then Leggett then McCullough, but after a standout spring, Leggett seems to pose the biggest receiver threat.
In his senior season at Navarre (Fla.), he averaged 17.5 yards per catch, with 964 yards total and seven touchdowns. But he is still a freshman, and tight end isn’t the easiest of positions to make an instant impact. The former Tiger-now-Colt, Allen, is the best recent example – 10 catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns in 2008.
Overall, both tight end targets and production should go down by a few percentage points due to the inexperience (and plenty of options in the receiver corps), but will still be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest.
Projection – Marty Coleman (Seldom Used Reserve
SUR 2013 Forecast: Clemson tight ends
For Leggett and McCullough I looked at usage trends for freshmen tight ends at Clemson under Swinney and matched these players as best I could with similar players from history based on pedigree and body type.
For Seckinger I estimated his snap total using historical trends (while accounting for Cooper’s injury) and used his current yard per catch and touchdown rate.
Seckinger’s touchdown total may look high, but remember, in Dwayne Allen’s first year he caught 10 balls and 3 went for touchdowns – this may be Seckinger’s role. (Check out of the rest of his analysis here).
More 2013 Forecasts