Jay Jay McCullough gives a glimpse of 'different dimension' in backfield debut

Work with running backs pays off, as redshirt freshman tight end rushed for 43 yards on six carries

Football - Donny McElveen & Jay Jay McCullough

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Donny McElveen & Jay Jay McCullough

Clemson recruited Jay Jay McCullough with a purpose.

His late-game debut at running back may have more significance than meets the eye.

The 6-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman tight end from Fort Mill, S.C. grabbed his opportunity and ran with it on Saturday, as he rushed for 43 yards on six carries and finished as Clemson's second leading rusher behind Rod McDowell.

Part of the reason for McCullough's backfield stint was circumstantial: Zac Brooks went down with a shoulder injury and C.J. Davidson is still rehabbing an MCL sprain. That left the Tigers with just two scholarship running backs - McDowell and D.J. Howard; and with the game out of reach, the coaches decided to give him a shot.

Part of the reason was intentional. McCullough had been working occasionally with the Tigers' backfield group, as Chad Morris grooms him to add a different dimension to Clemson's tight end group.

“We've been working him some at running back the last few weeks," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "When we recruited him, we felt like he brought a dimension to our tight end position that we didn't have.

"He played mainly running back in high school. It's been a slow transition for him, but as he's gotten more comfortable at tight end, we wanted to train him with his ball-handling and tracks, so he's been doing some things over there with Tony Elliott the last few weeks. It was just a matter of when we were going to use him.

"He had fun. I definitely think as we go through his career he will bring some diversity to our offense. I'm excited about that."

Change of heart pleases Swinney: Dabo Swinney didn't much like it when Josh Watson - a regular in the Tigers' defensive tackle rotation - informed him of plans to give up his final season of eligibility after graduation and try his hand at an NFL career.

So he was elated when Watson informed him that after consulting with friends and family, he changed his mind and has decided to play his 2014 season as a redshirt senior.

“Josh has decided to stay, and I'm happy about that," Swinney said. "That makes more sense to me. We're glad. He told me he changed his mind. I'm glad he's staying."

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Comments » 3

TigerNE writes:

Nothing like a mystery on how they'll use Jay Jay come Saturday. Back? TE? Or this unspecified hybrid they are hinting about.

tigerrob44 writes:

I was watching the game Saturday and when Jay Jay came in I told my buddy I didn't know who he was. I know who he is now! Who is that number 89 I ask? Well, he is 6'3" and is 230 lbs. and is probably pretty fast. It seems logical we could use him in certain situations we get ourselves in and he could really help us out. He can probably get us 2 yards when we need it the most. What an asset to have a guy like Jay Jay.

clemvol writes:

Is Jay Jay another way to help Boyd with protection? Is he a big body to get short yardage when needed? Is he another weapon out of the backfield? Does he help on blitz packages? Does he help on additional blocking of clowney? I like this additiional option to make coots have to practice and plan for this.

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