By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Don’t get Clemson tight ends coach Danny Pearman wrong. He really wishes he had Sam Copper starting for him and the Tigers when they open the season on Aug. 31 against Georgia.
But the simple fact of the matter, he doesn’t. And he is okay with that.
Copper is more than likely out for the season after tearing his ACL in the Orange & White Spring Game in April so Pearman has to work with a tight end that is more like a fullback, another that was a converted wide receiver and two more that are raw and inexperienced and are still learning how to play in the college game.
But Pearman is excited about the group of tight ends he has on campus when fall camp begins on Aug. 2.
“I think they pretty much get along and they have a pretty good solid work ethic,” he said. “They have a moral compass that is centered and I think they all try to work hard for the most part. That makes good teammates.
“That is confidence not only in them, but also there is no selfish tone in the room or a situation where a guy thinks he ought to be playing or he should be doing this or that.
“I don’t think we have that. I sense we have guys that think are like ‘Hey, if he goes down, Coach I’ll do it.’”
Pearman says that attitude starts with senior leader Darrell Smith, who he describes as the second most respected player on the entire team besides quarterback Tajh Boyd. Smith brings experience and veteran leadership to a unit that really needs that kind of guidance.
“If you ask any player, they will probably say that Darrell Smith is as good of a leader as we have on offense,” Pearman said. “He is a guy that has been in our program. He is a tough guy and he has been in the battles. He is graduated and he is mature.
“We will lean on him.”
Pearman plans to lean on every one of the tight ends he has on his roster. Each one brings something different to the table than the other. Smith is a bruising blocker that is built like a fullback more than anything else. Then there is Stanton Seckinger, a one-time wide receiver, who has good hands and runs crisp routes.
Then there is Jordan Leggett, perhaps the most gifted of the group. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he has the size and talent to grow into a quality tight end. Then there is Jay Jay McCullough, who redshirted last season. He is very similar to Leggett in style, and has the speed to run away from defenders.
One thing is for sure, Pearman says all four guys are going to play.
“We just have to see what shakes out and see who is the most productive until Sam gets back,” he said.
In other words, somebody is going to have to step up if Clemson hopes to keep its run of All-ACC tight ends streak alive. Since 2009, Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford have all been First-Team All-ACC performers.
“Somebody is going to have to be (a breakout player),” Pearman said. “It’s huge. Somebody is going to have to be, which is fine with us.
“Darrell is going to get an opportunity and all of those kids will get an opportunity. It may be a thing where you get them out there and the lights come on and they can’t handle it. If it does, then let’s shuffle the deck and get somebody else.
“I can remember trying to play Sam Cooper some in the Auburn game last year. It might have been twenty snaps of the eighty and he probably had no business being out there. But we knew we had to spoon feed him. You have to know when he is in there what is going to happen and what is going to take place.
“By the end of the year, the kid was coming on and was more confident and was not only splitting time, but he was probably playing more than Brandon by the end of the year. It may be a thing like that. It might be by committee the first little bit on who is hot and let’s go with it.”