When you are the nephew of former Georgia great and Heisman Trophy winning running back Herschel Walker, there is a certain level of expectations that comes with it whether it’s fair or not.
Such expectations were placed on Milan Richard when he came to Clemson in 2014, even though he plays a different position. With all the great tight ends Clemson has had in recent years—Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen and Jordan Leggett—it just seemed natural, given his family history, Richard’s name would be right up there with them.
However, that has not been the case, but that’s not Richard’s fault. His first three years at Clemson, including one redshirt season, he played behind Leggett, who left Clemson with just about every tight end record one could own.
And though he became the starter last season, it’s not like Clemson was tossing the ball all over the field as it did the previous three years when Deshaun Watson was the quarterback. Clemson ran a totally different style offensively with Kelly Bryant at quarterback and Richard, along with fellow tight end Cannon Smith, was blocking more than running pass routes like Leggett did.
Quietly, though, Richard had a good season catching the football. He finished the 2017 season fifth on the team with 18 catches. His 210 yards also ranked fifth on the squad, while his 11.7 yards per catch average ranked fourth among those with at least 11 receptions.
For all practical purposes, the Savannah, Ga., native had a good year. In a few weeks, he will head into his final season at Clemson as the co-starter at tight end, along with redshirt junior Garrett Williams.
At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, Richard has the body type of Dwayne Allen, who soared to All-American status as both a run blocker and as a pass catcher at Clemson in 2011. Allen is the only Clemson tight end to win the coveted John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end.
It would be unfair to write Richard can win the Mackey Award because it so subjective, but he can be a productive piece in the Clemson offense if he continues to progress like he has in his first four years at Clemson. Each year he has gotten better and it would not surprise anyone to see him become an All-ACC caliber type tight end.
The competition in camp, which begins on Aug. 2, can only help. With Williams back and challenging Richard for his job, along with fellow senior Cannon Smith, sophomore J.C. Chalk and freshman Braden Galloway, competition can only make Richard better, which in turn will pay off nicely for Clemson as well.
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