Tight end Jaelyn Lay admits he was disappointed when he found out halfway through his freshman season at Clemson in 2019 that he was going to redshirt.
However, when he reflects on his redshirt year now, he knows it was good for his development and believes it will help him moving forward.
“Now, I can look back and be glad on it, because coming in I wasn’t thinking I was going to redshirt. But it happened midseason,” Lay told The Clemson Insider recently.
“I think it’ll benefit in the long run so I can focus on my game, focus on what I need to work on and just improve every day in practice,” he added.
After arriving on campus as a midyear enrollee last January, Lay had a lot of room for improvement in the weight room. One year later, he stands at 6-foot-6, about 270 pounds and has made strides from a strength standpoint.
“I’ve gotten stronger,” he said. “When I first got here, I couldn’t even bench 225 like five times. I could only do it like two times, but now, I can do it at least 15.”
Exclusively a wideout when he was at Riverdale (Ga.) High School, Lay was recruited to Clemson as a tight end and now has a much better feel for how to play the position, especially regarding what is asked of him as a blocker.
“What I think has improved is my blocking, because coming in, I only played wide receiver,” he said. “That’s the only thing I knew coming into college. So, just being attached was a lot, plus me being undersized. But now, I think I improved better.”
Rated as one of the top five tight ends or H-backs in the nation by ESPN and Rivals coming out of high school, Lay committed to Clemson on March 3, 2018, over offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh and Syracuse among others.
Playing for head coach Dabo Swinney is everything Lay expected it to be when he was a recruit.
“During the recruiting process, everything that he told me, it was true,” Lay said. “It was never different. It was always fun, especially in practice. So yeah, he’s a good coach.”
If there is one area of Clemson’s offense that could use a significant boost in 2020, it’s the production of tight ends in the passing game. With Braden Galloway sidelined for most of the 2019 season due to suspension, six Tiger tight ends combined for 26 receptions, 239 receiving yards and no touchdowns.
Lay, who caught one pass for 20 yards while appearing in four games, feels primed to make an impact next season after a beneficial redshirt year.
“That’s my plan,” he said. “That’s why I (came) here, to just be a playmaker and do what I can to make plays and make a difference in the offense.”
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