Clemson finds itself short a tight end perhaps for the 2017 season, and it happens to be the one who has the most experience.
Garrett Williams, who also plays fullback / H-Back position, had surgery to repair a torn ACL late last week and his status for the beginning of fall camp is unknown, according to head coach Dabo Swinney in a press release on Tuesday.
Williams suffered the injury to his right knee during the final week of spring practice. Swinney told the media on April 5 he thought Williams tore his ACL, but the team was going to scope it first and repair it if there was damage done to the knee.
So what does Williams’ injury mean for the Tigers this coming season?
It definitely hurts with experienced depth at tight end. With Jordan Leggett off to the NFL, Williams was the most experienced tight end in practice. In his first two seasons, the rising junior played in 30 games and took 252 snaps, as well as playing a significant role on special teams.
Williams is also the Tigers’ lead blocker on short-yardage and goal-line plays, something he has done the last two years.
With the possibility of Williams being out for some time, and maybe all of the 2017 season, depending on his rehab, the Tigers will look to Cannon Smith to fill Williams’ role as a lead blocker. Like Williams, he is a good blocker and fits this role better than Milan Richard or D.J. Greenlee.
Smith played in all 15 games last season and was primarily used as an extra blocker in goal line and short yardage situations.
Richard came out of the spring as the man to beat in regards to replacing Leggett. Though he will be asked to pass block and block on running situations, Richard appears to be the one tight ends coach Danny Pearman, along with co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott, likes as a playmaker.
According to Swinney and the two coordinators, Richard really came on this spring and put himself in position to be the full-time starter at tight end.
“Milan is one of those kids that he did not know what he did not know coming in here, but he has done a really nice job,” Swinney said. “He has worked extremely hard. He has had a very consistent spring.”
Before spring drills were over Richard said he still had some work to do to get better.
“I think some of us have been able to relate that to the rest of the offense,” he said. “So I think sometimes it’s just a mature area, being able to look at the game kind of from a coaches’ perspective is something that I think I’ve worked on a little bit.”
Richard said his main goal is to show he can be consistent on the field.
“Just being able to show that I can perform when the lights are on, if you will. It’s different from the practice field and performing per say, so just doing it in a game full time.”
While he feels like he has improved over spring practice, Richard said he still has a ways to go before he is fully satisfied.
“No, you’re never going to accomplish everything, you’re always improving,” he said. “Of course you have goals set and things you want to accomplish but no, nowhere near accomplished everything that we need to accomplish.”
With Williams’ injury, the two younger guys—Shadell Bell and J.C. Chalk—will also be asked to step up and help fill his role.