Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney really likes the progress freshman tight end Jaelyn Lay has made during the first three days of fall camp.
The Tigers are hopeful Lay, and fellow freshman Davis Allen, can be ready to go by the time they open the season on Aug. 29 against Georgia Tech. Clemson is in desperate need of depth at tight end following the NCAA suspension of Braden Galloway and Garrett Williams’ decision to end his career a year earlier than expected.
Right now, junior J.C. Chalk is the only tight end on Clemson’s roster with game day experience. As for Lay, Swinney says he has made a lot of improvements since the spring.
“He is one of those guys that is much improved from the spring. He was spinning, lost. He has worked really hard,” the Tigers’ coach said. “So, again, we are just getting the pads on. We have a lot to do from an installation standpoint and a lot to do from a situational football standpoint. We have a long way to go in our progression here.
“So, we will see how he holds up. But he is a guy that will definitely need to help us. So, we will see if he hits the wall or something like that, but right now after a few days, he is hanging in there and is much, much improved. It is just a matter of time. He is going to be a very good player, but like I said, he was just overwhelmed with everything this spring. It has settled down for him a lot.”
Any day on Allen. Allen (ankle injury) has been wearing a yellow jersey during the first three days of practice and has not participated in any drills to this point. However, Swinney says that could change soon.
“Just anytime, really. He is just waiting on Danny,” Swinney said. “They are kind of progressing him. I guess they are starting to do some of their cutting and stuff. It is just a matter of him time where he can really cut loose on it and plant and cut like he needs to. I don’t really know, but hopefully sooner than later.
“It happened a couple of weeks ago, but it looks a lot better. It was pretty black and blue, but it looks a lot better.”
Freshmen running backs look good. Swinney says he has been pleased with what they have seen from freshmen running back Chez Mellusi and Michel Dukes.
“They are both outstanding prospects and Tony (Elliott) did an awesome job,” Swinney said. “Tony, he is a very stingy recruiter, I like to say. He does not offer many guys and there are a lot of boxes you have to check. I love that about Tony. I think he did an awesome job going through the process and identifying the right candidates and man we landed those two and we are super pleased.
“They’re both big stout guys. Mikey does not get the credit he deserves. He is a put together guy. He is not a puny kid. I think a lot of people knew Chez was a bigger back coming in as a freshman. Mikey is put together now. He is stout. They will be fun to watch develop. They are both doing a nice job, but we have to get them ready.”
Will Bentley be ready by the start of the season? One guy who has stood out some in the first three days of practice is freshman linebacker LaVonta Bentley. But, though Bentley has looked good, Swinney says they have a long way to go in camp before they know if he will be someone they can count on this season.
“We are not ready to pencil in any of those guys at this point. We still have a long way to go, especially at that position, especially just the first day in shoulder pads,” he said. “We need to get some live work and scrimmaging and get another week of installation and see how some of these guys are processing it. Who can keep moving forward and who just hits the wall and gets overloaded? That is going to happen with somebody, that is just the way it is.
“I will tell you this. If you put pictures in the dictionary and looked up linebacker, it would have one of his pictures in there because he looks exactly like you would want to look. He is put together for a freshman coming in here. He is as impressive … a physically ready guy that you will see. All of those guys. We have a good group. Those young guys, I think we hit on all of them from where we think they are athletically, but we have a long way to go before I think we can pencil them in.”