This time last year, Garrett Williams was wearing a yellow jersey and was spending every practice jogging around the practice fields at the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
The Clemson tight end was recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the previous spring workouts and missed the entire 2017 season.
“It has been a long process,” Williams said following Friday’s practice.
It’s a process that saw Williams get back to full strength near the end of last season. He spent remainder of the year on the scout team and was issued a medical redshirt. In the spring he emerged as a candidate to be the Tigers’ starting tight end as he had what head coach Dabo Swinney called one of the more impressive springs of any player on the roster.
Clemson’s offensive coaches are hoping the redshirt junior can help pick up the production, which was lacking at times last season. Williams came into the summer tied with Milan Richard as the starter.
“It has been a long journey, but it is awesome to be back out here with the guys grinding,” he said. “Me and Milan and the other tight ends are just pushing each other every day. It is good competition in our room. It has been a great experience thus far in camp and I just can’t wait to see these next few weeks.”
In his first two years at Clemson, Williams was used primarily as a blocker in short yardage or goal-line situations. He was used more as a fullback or H-back, catching just two passes for 21 yards in his first two seasons.
“I was definitely used as a blocker and special teams my first two years, which I loved,” Williams said. “But, you know, you always want to get the ball in your hands sometime so I have just been working real hard in the off-season, skills and drills in the summer and all you can do to really get my routes right, crisp and my hands better.
“So far in camp, I feel like I have been successful in the passing game and like I said, just moving forward I have just continued to progress and progress every day. It is exciting being more in this role because everybody wants to have the ball in their hands at some point.”
Williams thinks there will be an uptick by the tight ends in the offense this year, similar to the way it was when former All-American Jordan Leggett was running all over the field and setting records in 2015 and ’16.
“Milan did a great job last year, and I think we can only continue to build on that and what he did last year. I think me and him can be really productive this year in the passing game and try to do some of what Jordan did two years ago and before that.
“Like I said, our offense is designed to have a (tight end) that is versatile. I think that with me and Milan we can both bring that to the game this year and hopefully bring that to our offense a little bit.”