CLEMSON – Tight end was the concern for the Clemson offense – maybe the lone concern in terms of depth and experience – going into 2013.
Sam Cooper suffered a major knee injury in the spring game. Early-enrollee talent Jordan Leggett suffered a minor knee injury in fall camp. In just his second-year as a tight end, sophomore Stanton Seckinger was left as the Tigers’ top target, while senior fullback Darrell Smith was going to have to take a bigger role there too.
As it turns out, those concerns really only lasted for one game.
Against S.C. State, all four scholarship tight ends played – and three of them combined for six catches and 45 yards.
Almost a footnote compared to the hype surrounding Chad Kelly’s return, Cooper got his first taste of action after his incredible 21-week recovery period from an ACL tear.
After being carted off in a scrimmage, fears of a similar fate were there for Jordan Leggett just a couple weeks to kickoff, but instead, he was able to haul in his first career catch last Saturday.
After the late setback, he’s happy he can draw upon the extra time from enrolling in the spring.
“When I got to do 7-on-7s with Tajh (Boyd), they’d throw me in a couple plays and after 7-on-7s were over me and Tajh would work on routes,” Leggett said. “It really helped me a whole lot in understanding the whole playbook more. If I had come in later, I know I would be redshirted right now.”
Leggett says he’s still working on trusting his knee and dealing with a knee brace, but the Clemson coaches will be patient with him.
“Boy, he has a great upside,” Dabo Swinney said Wednesday. “I think he's going to be a great, great tight end for many, many years.
“This is a big year for him from just a developmental standpoint. I don't have any doubts by the time this year's over, Jordan Leggett is going to have made some plays and helped us win a lot of games.”
Jay Jay McCullough, who redshirted last season, says the tight ends will be rotating heavily, as each of them brings something different to the offense.
“For me, I can line up everywhere. I played running back throughout high school,” McCullough said, who accounted for over 1,500 all-purpose yards as a senior at Nation Ford (S.C.). “I’m good at running routes. I would like to get quick screens because I know how to read through stuff like that.
Pinion put in work for strong start
“We all bring something special to the table, but most of it is speed.”
Pinion making a difference: Clemson had jumped out to its second two-possession lead of the third quarter at No. 4 Florida State, and they watched all of that momentum go down the drain two plays later.
Then freshman kickoff specialist Bradley Pinion’s kick landed at the FSU goalline and Lamarcus Joyner proceeded to run it 90 yards back the other way to setup a Seminoles touchdown. From that boot until the final whistle, FSU outscored Clemson 28-7 en route to the 49-37 win.
Pinion, who also holds the Clemson punter role, says he worked on kickoffs all offseason.
“I was hitting kickoffs good all summer long and went to a bunch of camps,” Pinion said, “and that really helped me so that I would get it through the back of the endzone every single time. Having consistency with it. That helped me a lot because the main thing I worked on was kickoffs.”
And it’s paid off, Pinion currently leads the nation in touchback percentage (92.3 – 12-of-13) and was a perfect 7-for-7 against Georgia.
He is also averaging 43.8 yards per punt with two 50-yarders and has landed four inside the 20.
Pinion credits some good genes for his strong leg, as his grandfather Earl Mason also played the position at Appalachian State and Wingate and tried out with the Dallas Cowboys.
“It came hereditary and traveled through me and it’s just natural God-given ability,” Pinion said.
Tigers get mental break: The countdown clock in the WestZone was set to Georgia not long after beating LSU last New Year’s Eve.
After an offseason’s worth of preparation, they turned the attention quickly to S.C. State after the 38-35 opener win.
Before starting ACC play at N.C. State next Thursday, the Tigers are now enjoying a much-needed mental break this week
“Bye weeks are always awesome to refresh and refocus,” junior receiver Adam Humphries said. “The whole team has been grinding for months and months preparing for Georgia and then we have S.C. State.
“We’re kind of mentally drained and it’s good to have a week to relax and we’re still going to work hard in practice. But mentally, it’s a big help for us.”
With the extra time, Clemson has won three of its last four games coming off a bye. They will have another one before their Thursday home date with Georgia Tech on Nov. 14.