As the post-Jordan Leggett era begins, the competition at the tight end spot over the spring was tight. While Garrett Williams’ ACL injury definitely had an effect on the race, it was largely Milan Richard’s job to lose.
He has 172 snaps under his belt, more than any other healthy tight end on the roster, and was a major contributor on special teams for the past two seasons. His strength is blocking, but his ability as a freak athlete and development as a route runner could allow him to take the next step into an all-around tight end. In addition to his athleticism, Richard has the knowledge necessary to be great.
Head coach Dabo Swinney has compared him to Clemson great Dwayne Allen, which is no small compliment. A lot of Richard’s development over the spring had to do with becoming a more consistent player in all aspects of his game.
“I don’t think you can say one part of my game is good enough to stop working on … so really just all of it to become a complete player,” Richard said.
While Leggett’s 46 receptions and 736 yards of offense likely won’t be replicated this year, Richard has the potential to put up some impressive numbers if he can translate his abilities onto the field.
D.J. GREENLEE: 6-1, 245, GRADUATE. Greenlee, who is from nearby Daniel High School, will play his final season as a graduate after earning his undergraduate degree in May of 2017.
Greenlee made big strides in the spring and is considered in the mix to be the new starter. Even if he does not get the start, he is slated to see much more playing time this year. He is listed as the second-team tight end behind Richard entering camp.
Greenlee led all Clemson tight ends in receptions in the spring scrimmages. He has appeared in 23 games in his Clemson career.
CANNON SMITH: 6-5, 265, REDSHIRT JUNIOR. If one word could be used to describe Smith, it would be reliable. You know what you’re going to get when he’s on the field. He excels at blocking but has the speed and athleticism to get out of the backfield to make some good catches and gain yards after contact.
Behind Jordan Leggett last year, Smith onlyreceived 38 snaps over 15 games and caught twoballs for 25 yards. The biggest part of Smith’s game ishis physicality, which he inherited from his father, Bill,who was on the 1981 National Championship team,and now Cannon has extended the family legacy.Cannon Smith’s role should expand this year,especially in run packages and goal-line situations.
His size gives him an advantage on the edge against defensive ends and linebackers as he packs a lot of brutal force behind his initial punch off the line. He may not possess the hands that Leggett had, but he should carve out plenty of playing time and might even be used in some goal-line passing situations.
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