Tight end Jordan Leggett was virtually nonexistent in Clemson’s offense through the first three games of the season.
That changed against Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
Entering the game with just one catch for 9 yards on the season, Leggett recorded four receptions for 31 yards and an important touchdown in No. 3 Clemson’s 26-7 win over the Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Leggett played a prominent role in Clemson’s run to the national championship last season, when he ranked third on the team with 40 catches for 525 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns en route to being named one of three finalists for the John Mackey award, presented annually to the nation’s best tight end.
So, naturally, the slow start this season was a bit frustrating for Leggett. Still, he stayed patient, and it paid off against Georgia Tech.
“It was a little bit, but I reminded myself that I just need to stay patient, and that’s what I did,” Leggett said. “I just tried to play as much as I could without the ball in my hands, and it kind of helped bring the ball to me in this game.”
Leggett was involved from the outset against Georgia Tech, catching two passes for 16 yards on Clemson’s opening drive to help the Tigers score the first touchdown of the game, a 4-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Mike Williams.
The senior from Navarre, Fla., scored a big touchdown of his own at the end of the first half to give the Tigers additional momentum heading into the locker room.
With less than 10 seconds left in the second quarter, and Clemson near the goal line, Leggett lined up wide right and was matched up one-on-one with Georgia Tech defensive back Lamont Simmons. Leggett ran a post route, created separation and was wide open for a 9-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson that gave the Tigers a 23-0 lead at halftime.
Clemson’s coaching staff made a concerted effort to get one of their biggest playmakers involved, and they were rewarded for their efforts.
“It was good to get Jordan going,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He’s a guy that made a lot of plays for us last year, and he’s a matchup problem when you can get him in certain situations. We planned to target him early, and throughout the course of the game they continued to let us get him the ball.”
It was the second straight year that Leggett enjoyed a lot of success against the Yellow Jackets. Last October, Leggett had four receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson’s 43-24 win over Georgia Tech at home.
Leggett said it was a matter of exploiting Georgia Tech’s defensive schemes on both occasions.
“It all depends on the defense, whether or not I’m going to get the ball as much as I did (Thursday),” Leggett said. “Their defense really opened it up for me. Last year, it was the same way, so it definitely just played over into this year.”
Clemson will need all hands on deck for a big showdown against fourth-ranked Louisville next Saturday, so it was good for the Tigers that Leggett got going on Thursday.
Leggett feels Clemson’s offense — after a rocky first few weeks of the season — is starting to click the way it was expected to heading into the year.
“I think we’re definitely getting closer,” Leggett said. “Having two big away games under our belt now, I feel like we’re going to start rolling. Just having the younger guys come on, having these big games and having Louisville next week at home, I think we’re going to start rolling.”