All of sudden, J.C. Chalk went from being just one of the guys to the starting tight end for Clemson’s football team.
This time last year, Chalk was listed fourth on the depth chart, behind Garrett Williams, Milan Richard and Cannon Smith. However, Williams’ playing career is likely over, though he nor Clemson have officially announced it, while Richard and Smith have graduated and are trying their luck at making an NFL roster.
Last year’s rising star at the position, Braden Galloway, has been suspended by the NCAA for the entire 2019 regular season after he, along with former defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and offensive lineman Zach Giella, tested positive for trace amounts of Ostarine in a random drug test prior to the Cotton Bowl. Lawrence has seen moved on to the NFL where he was a first-round selection of the New York Giants, while Galloway’s and Giella’s appeal on the suspension was upheld.
Now it is up to Chalk and two freshmen—Jaelyn Lay and Davis Allen—to pick up the slack at tight end as the Tigers’ get set to make another run at a national championship in 2019.
Head coach Dabo Swinney was pleased with Chalk’s performance in the spring, saying the redshirt junior had his best spring to this point in his career.
“He had a good spring within his role,” the Clemson coach said. “He is so much more mature. All of sudden he is the oldest guy. He goes from kind of blending in to now he has to run out there first. There is just a little different demeanor to him. I have been pleased with him.”
Though Chalk has not caught many passes in his career—four to be exact—he has played a lot. After redshirting in 2016, he has played in 24 games the last two seasons, including all 15 games in last year’s national title run. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound tight end was used mostly as a pass blocker.
As for Lay and Allen, they are both raw. However, because of the lack of depth at the position, they will both likely play this year. Lay enrolled early and went through spring drills, but to no one’s surprise he struggled at times with the scheme.
Swinney explained how everything was going fast for the freshman at first and at times he looked lost. But that was to be expected. Besides the quarterback position, tight end is the second hardest skill position to learn and play because of all the different responsibilities the tight end has in the offense.
“Jaylen just has a lot going on,” Swinney said. “He is going to be a good player, but the game is just fast for him. Eventually, at some point, it is going to slow down. He just needs a lot of reps this summer and work on catching the ball and he will be fine.”
Allen just got on campus last week and started working out with his teammates. He comes to Clemson at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.
Swinney loves the guys he has at tight end, but there is going to be some growing pains after losing so much experience and depth there at one time.