Milan Richard was not going to lie. Clemson football practice is a little bit different this year without guys like Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett running around and making plays.
Those five, along with center Jay Guillermo, have been the life blood of the Tigers’ offense the last three years. So when practice began last week, it felt a little strange at first.
“It is different, but I don’t feel like we have missed a beat,” Richard said. “You plugged in Kelly (Bryant), you plugged in Deon (Cain). You plugged in other guys. You plugged in me. It is not like the offense disappeared because those guys are gone. Guys have stepped up next in line and have taken off with it.
“That is what we are doing. Guys have stepped into those spots and we are throwing the ball and having a good time.”
Richard is one of the guys stepping up in line as he tries to replace Leggett at tight end. He is involved in one of the more intriguing position battles this spring as he, Cannon Smith and Garrett Williams are all vying to take Leggett’s place in the starting lineup.
“We miss him, but I don’t think we are missing a beat,” Richard said. “We kind of came in and hit the ground running on Day 1. We are all great friends and we all push each other and I think that is what makes the competition so good.”
It helps that all three of them know the offense well. Richard and Cannon are beginning their fourth year in the system, while Williams is beginning his third.
“At the same time things are always changing,” Richard said. “You don’t want to stay the same because then people know what you are doing year in and year out. Things are always changing and you can never learn enough so I think I’m always learning, even if is my third or fourth year in the offense.”
Richard says he is enjoying the fact he is actually competing for the starting job as opposed to just competing to be Leggett’s backup, like he has done the last two years.
“It is a great feeling,” he said. “It is something that I have definitely been waiting for so now I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The reason why Richard and the others have not been able to beat out Leggett was due to the All-American’s consistency in the weight room, in meetings, on the practice field and in games.
“We just have to be more consistent,” Richard said. “Consistency was one of the thing things he brought to the table so anytime we feel like we can be more consistent is probably the biggest thing.”
And of course being a leader too. Leggett was voted by his teammates as a permanent captain at the end of the year.
“I’m hoping to take over that role, but that is something that has to play out over the spring, over the summer and over camp,” Richard said. “We have a long time to develop leadership all throughout the team so I definitely want to be one of those guys. But that is something your teammates will decide. They decide if they want to follow you or not so that will be up to them if they look at me as one of those guys.”
–Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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