By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Most college football fans around the nation when they think of Clemson’s offense they think of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and Dwayne Allen, however tight end Brandon Ford clearly showed in Saturday’s comeback victory over Wake Forest that he has what it takes to be a lethal weapon for the Tigers as well, as he came up with big plays in several clutch situations, including a touchdown catch in which he missed stepping out of bounds by just an inch.
“When I first caught that touchdown pass I knew that I had both feet in,” Ford said. “I was forced out of bounds before making the catch which in college you’re allowed to come back in and be the first to touch the ball. I knew that once I got my feet down that I was in, but it took them a while to review it. It was a great feeling though, it was 7 points to help us come back, and we were down 14 at the time. I just wanted to help make a big play.”
Ford has had luck in the past when it comes to questionable touchdown passes as he also had a touchdown reviewed during the Tigers’ bowl appearance last season as well that went his way in the end.
“This was the second call in my career that they had to review the play the way they did,” Ford said. “I just thank god that they confirmed it and helped us win the game. The first play I had reviewed was in Charlotte at the bowl game last season, I had possession of the ball and both of my knees hit the ground and I lost possession a second later. I didn’t think I caught it, or that it would be a touchdown but they gave it to me, the lord must be on my side.”
Ford, who made the switch from the receiver position to tight end before last season has enjoyed becoming more of a receiving threat for the Tigers’ offense over the last few weeks.
“It’s been great,” Ford said. “I play behind Dwayne, and we have other great guys out there like Sammy, Nuke, Jaron, Martavis, Charone, Adam, the list goes on for days. It’s been great; the coaches always want us to be ready anytime we go in. We have to prepare as if we’re going to be a starter. Coach Swinney says you may be playing 80 snaps or it might be 1, just prepare like you’re a starter. Every day I go to work, Monday through Thursday and then in meetings on Friday and take ownership, because hey Dwayne might go down and he may not so I might be the guy that needs to make that play.”
On Saturday against Wake Forest, two of Clemson’s starters went down, Sammy Watkins with an AC joint sprain and left tackle Philip Price with an MCL injury, which only made it clearer to Ford that he needed to step up and take ownership of the opportunities given to him.
“Every time I got it I told Coach that he could count on me,” Ford said. “I told the seniors that I owe to y’all and that I would play my hardest and I did.”
Last season, when Ford was moved to tight end he was nervous at first because according to him, playing tight end is a different world than playing receiver.
“Basically in practice, you go against guys that are 30 pounds heavier than you, might be twice as strong,” Ford said. “The physical part is what you’ve got to bring every day. When I first moved, I knew it would be a challenge, but I’ve faced challenges all of my life so I told the coaches that I’d be willing to take it on. It was hard at first because I was preparing with guys like Da’Quan and Jarvis on the inside, and I was only about 215 pounds at the time. It was scary at first, but I kept sticking with what Coach Pearman would tell me and every day after practice I would work with him. I just learned how Dwayne would use his hands and watch film. I would grade myself every day at practice and ask Coach Pearman how I did; sometimes he’d have to be hard on me, but it’s been worth it.”
Ford knows that he’s not going to be 250-260 pounds like starter Dwayne Allen until about another year and so because of that he’s been really working on his technique.
“I’ve had almost a full year of working at tight end,” Ford said. “As of right now it’s going to be technique in everything I do. I work on my hands, feet, eyes, steps, you can’t think slowly in the game. Every day we do drills and every day I thank Coach Pearman for being my coach, teaching me everything he has, and that I don’t regret making the move.”
What’s been the toughest part of moving to the tight end position for Ford?
“For me the toughest part is when you get to know the defense that you’re going up against, knowing one day that you’re going up against a Da’Quan Bowers or an Andre Branch, these guys are 60 pounds or so heavier than me, I didn’t know what I was getting into at first. Another tough part is just knowing everything, you have to know the whole offense, and it’s the second hardest position on the team behind the quarterback in my opinion because you have to know the whole big picture. As far as the easiest part, I’d say it’s going up against a linebacker or a safety instead of a defensive back like I was used to when I played receiver. I’m used to going up against fast guys like defensive backs all day, and when I get matched up against a linebacker it’s one of the easiest things for me to do.”
No one knows what will happen with Dwayne Allen next year, as he is projected to be the #1 tight end prospect in the nation for the NFL draft in April, however Ford is preparing to step up if Allen does plan to leave and become the Tigers’ go to guy at the tight end position.
“If he leaves we’ll all support him, if he doesn’t it will be better because we’ll have more guys coming back,” Ford said. “I tell him that I support him in anything he does, and he supports me. But I prepare now every day in practice like I’m the starter because you don’t know what will happen. Anything can happen to him and I’ll be the next man up. I think I can take that role on next year, but I’m going to wait until that time comes, right now I’m just trying to help this team go as far as it can and help send these seniors out with a 13 game winning season.”