Jordan Leggett's key to a Tiger tight end surge

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett catches a touchdown near Maryland's Zach Dancel with 14 second left during the second quarter at Maryland.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett catches a touchdown near Maryland's Zach Dancel with 14 second left during the second quarter at Maryland.

CLEMSON - Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris says you're going to see a lot more of Jordan Leggett.

The 6-6 freshman tight end is certainly in favor of that.

"I sure hope it's the truth. I love to play football," the Navarre, Fla. native said. "That's what I love to do and would love to see the field more often."

Last week at Maryland was his first career start, and the early-enrollee made the most of it as part of a perfect toss-and-catch, timing his leap right and landing a foot down at the edge of the endzone for a five-yard score.

"It felt great because I don't get to score that often," he said. "When they actually give me an opportunity to play, I like to give back to them and make it like it's not a bad thing that they put me in the game."

Swinney: Tiger TEs best in the country

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As the early-enrollee makes well aware, his playing time had come few and far between before that Saturday.

Leggett had five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in his first five games, averaging 18.2 snaps per contest. He missed the latter half of fall camp and the Georgia opener with a minor knee injury, which his head coach says has played a major role.

"When he got hurt it really set him back mentally," Dabo Swinney said. "This spring he had a real hunger and sense of urgency and I thought he was as good as anyone out there this spring, but he got hurt and (it) set him back and he missed some time. And just his maturity (was a factor)."

The athletic true frosh readily admits to being "lazy," which hasn't helped.

"They don't trust me because of my practice habits," Leggett said. "But when it comes to game-time I know how to flip the switch and do what I have to do to help my team have the best opportunity to win."

Leggett finds himself on a crowded depth chart, a co-backup behind redshirt sophomore Stanton Seckinger with three more Tigers.

Seckinger leads the group by far with 13 catches for 156 yards and two scores, but since a first-play fumble against Florida State, he hasn't had a reception in reduced playing time.

"He's lost his confidence. We've got to get his confidence back," Swinney said. "We'll do that and he'll respond. Don't throw that cat away. He'll win a bunch of games for us."

Swinney maintains the tight ends, which make up only 11 percent of the receiving yards but 24 percent of the passing scores this season, have a lot more in store.

"We've got to get them there," he said. "And we will, write that down. Them boys don't get hurt and y'all are going to look up and go, 'Man, we've got the best tight ends in the country.' Because that's what I think about those guys."

Leggett says he's ready to be a part of that leap come Saturday.

"I'm going to start practicing harder," Leggett said, "and I feel like I've shown them what I can do and kind of built their trust in me. I'm going to practice hard to get a bigger role in this next game."

BLANKS, KEARSE SHARE SAFETY SPOT

Last year, Travis Blanks was the star true freshman defensive back, compiling eight passes defended playing nickel, but after Saturday, he's getting pushed by another first-year Tiger.

Jayron Kearse, a 6-4 205 fellow Florida prospect, played 47 snaps to Blanks' 26 at free safety, snagging a key interception to close the first half in College Park.

"You can't really put a value in it," Venables said. "That was big-time. They had a little momentum on both sides of the ball and (if they) punched that in, obviously it goes without being said that that was a really big play."

Kearse is averaging a tackle every 8.6 snaps on the year, and he’s played 40 snaps per in the last four games.

With 25 tackles and a pair of pass breakups, Blanks, who has dealt with injury (knee, Syracuse), isn't going by the wayside. He’s listed as the outright starter on this week’s depth chart.

"We've got a couple guys there we have to keep playing," said Venables. "Travis is far more consistent."

ENJOY CHARLOTTESVILLE, TIGER FANS

Clemson and Virginia played every season from 1977-2004, with the Tigers holding a 19-8-1 edge, but thanks to conference expansion and the ACC's soon-to-be-more unbalanced schedule, they are currently in line to play only four times in a span from 2005-2024.

Their next date after Saturday? 2020, in Clemson. Their next date after that? To be determined, but definitely after 2024 in conference play.

Since 1990, the series is an even 8-8-1, but the Tigers swept the last home-and-home, 47-24 combined.

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