During last week’s Dabo Swinney media golf outing, Clemson tight ends coach Danny Pearman was asked if Milan Richard under performed in his first year as starter.
Pearman was quick to defend his tight end. He felt the 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior was being judged unfairly.
“That’s the thing. Everyone realizes that Milan’s first year of really playing in that starting role was last season,” he asked. “Nobody talks much about Jordan Leggett’s junior year. Nobody talks about Dwayne Allen when he was a junior. He was a redshirt junior when he hit his stride.”
Richard of course was following in the footsteps of those two All-Americans. Allen won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end in 2011, while Leggett broke just about every single-season and career record by a tight end during his time at Clemson.
Of course, it also does not help Richard that the last image of Leggett Clemson fans have is the one of him twisting his body the make a miraculous catch that set up the Tigers’ game-winning touchdown in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Last year, Richard caught a modest 19 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown to lead all the tight ends. He ranked fifth on the team overall. However, his totals were 29 catches, 517 yards and 7 touchdowns short of what Leggett accomplished in 2016.
But, as Pearman explained, 2016 was Leggett’s second full-year as a starter. He was better in 2016 than he was in 2015. He expects the same progression from Richard this year.
“I expect Milan to have a big year for us,” the Clemson coach said. “I really do. This is his senior year. He has a good grasp of the offense. He has been in a lot of competitive situations.
“In that position, you are going to be covered quite a bit and to be able to make competitive catches is a big added plus. Just the confidence to do that…I look forward to him doing that this year.”
Richard heads into fall camp listed as the co-starter with redshirt junior Garrett Williams, who is coming of an ACL injury. Clemson begins training camp on Aug. 2.
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