Sizing up the ACC: Clemson tight ends aim to reverse trend

Orange Bowl - Clemson's Stanton Seckinger catches a five-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Orange Bowl - Clemson's Stanton Seckinger catches a five-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter

Last week evaluating Clemson’s tight end talent, I projected the unit performing its best yet in the Chad Morris offense.

Ask the fourth-year coordinator and he’ll stress the position’s importance in the hurry-up spread scheme, but in terms of impact, its’ decline has been substantial since Dwayne Allen took the honor for the nation’s top tight end in 2011.

Clemson TE Production in Offense (Leader)

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 ( Brandon Ford – 40 catches/480 yards/8 TDs)

2013: 487 yards, 11.3% of total RecY/11.8% of catches ( Stanton Seckinger – 21 catches/244 yards/4 TDs)


That’s a 4.25 percent drop per season in yards and 4.6 in receptions, coinciding with less snaps last season compared to 2012.

Jordan Leggett, Stanton Seckinger and co. aim to turn that trend around – and should, in a pass game that’s accurate and also less risk-taking downfield.

’13 ACC-pacing TE Eric Ebron, of UNC, was picked 10th overall by the Detroit Lions in this year’s NFL draft after nearly hitting four-digits (973 yards) with three scores. No one else really came close to those kind of numbers.

2013 Returning Leaders – Yards

1. Braxton Deaver (Duke) – 600

2. Nick O’Leary (Florida State) – 557

3. Clive Walford (Miami) – 454

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.)

Tier 1

1) Duke

Outlook: Coming off a slew of injuries, Braxton Deaver way outperformed our rankings last year to be the second-most targeted Duke receiver (46 catches, 600 yards, 4 TDs. The Blue Devils could be even more pass-happy this season, though have a pretty good stable of running backs

2) Clemson

Outlook: Tiger QBs have a few different options – it’s a matter of sophomore Jordan Leggett, as well as Stanton Seckinger taking their next steps because the yards and targets are there to be had in the wake of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant’s exits.

3) Florida State

Outlook: Senior Nick O’Leary is just short of 1,000 career receiving yards coming off career-highs last season (33 receptions/557 yards/7 TDs) and gunning for FSU all-time highs for the position (16 catches short/152 yards).

4) Louisville

Outlook: The Cards utilized the tight end effectively in 2013 with two in the top-50 AAC receivers, and so did new (old) coach Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky team last year. He returns 6-3 244 redshirt senior Gerald Christian (28 catches/426 yards/4 TDs in 2013).

5) North Carolina

Outlook: Replacing Ebron there’ll be some dropoff obviously, but probably not much. Rising senior Jack Tabb (6-3 250) averaged 17 yards per catch, hauling in seven receptions for 119 yards with a touchdown.

6) Miami

Outlook: Clive Walford (6-4 259) may get a few more looks after finishing third on the ‘Canes with 34 receptions for 454 yards and two scores. Fellow senior Beau Sandland had nine grabs for 94 yards and a touchdown as well, while 6-4 sophomore Standish Dobard was No. 1 on the depth chart going into the spring game (no catches in three games last year).

Tier 2

7) Pittsburgh

Outlook: Pitt isn’t necessarily losing its top tight end, but rather he’s switching to receiver in junior Manasseh Garner (33 receptions/391 yards/3 TDs). J.P. Holtz started all 13 games last year, with 23 catches for 209 yards and a touchdown.

8) Virginia Tech

Outlook: Kalvin Cline emerged last season to be among a few bright spots in the Hokies’ passing game last year, bringing in 26 catches for 321 yards and two scores. Former four-star quarterback Bucky Hodges (6-6 243) may also be a factor here by season’s end.

9) Boston College

Outlook: BC didn’t have much pass-game production outside of senior receiver Alex Amidon last season, but tight ends did make up the next three top receivers. Of that group, C.J. Parson is back (9 receptions/116 yards/3 TDs).

10) Syracuse

Outlook: If you’re counting H-back here, this was Syracuse’s top receiver position from Ashton Broyld (52 receptions), but he’s moving to receiver full-time. Atop the depth chart currently, redshirt sophomore Josh Parris had 13 catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns last season.

11) Virginia

Outlook: The good news…Virginia’s leading receiver was a tight end and he wasn’t a senior (Jake McGee – 43 receptions/395 yards/2 TDs) The bad news… he transferred to Florida. Former 3-star tight end Zachary Swanson had 19 catches for 173 yards in 2013.

Tier 3

12) N.C. State

Outlook: N.C. State’s leading TE, David Grinnage, is listed as 6-5 273, but he did bring in 14 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown last season. The Wolfpack have three freshmen coming in this fall to compete/provide depth.

13) Wake Forest

Outlook: Under Dave Clawson at Bowling Green, the tight end was utilized pretty heavily, but the picture is pretty murky here for the Deacs after Spencer Bishop moves on (19 catches/257 yards/2 TDs).

NA) Georgia Tech

Outlook: Tight end isn’t a part of the base offense for Paul Johnson’s spread option – the bulk of the passing game to receivers and A-backs.

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