When comparing last year’s depth chart heading into the 2019 season with what Clemson has this year, it’s easy to see there is not much of a drop off, or any at all, in terms of talent and potential production in 2020.
This fall, the Tigers return 11 combined starters on offense and defense, plus its starting kicker and punter from a year ago, along with plenty of talented and experienced depth. Again, they are in perfect position to win the ACC and contend for another berth in the College Football Playoff.
Go into last season, due to Braden Galloway’s suspension, Clemson’s depth at tight end consisted of J.C. Chalk, a redshirt junior at the time, followed by former walk-on Luke Brice, who was a converted linebacker in the spring, and then freshmen Davis Allen and Jaelyn Lay.
Lay was ultimately redshirted, while Allen, who suffered an injury in the preseason, eventually played most of the 2020 season as the Tigers’ third tight end. Clemson also used an extra offensive lineman when they needed a fourth tight end on goal line or short yardage situations.
As far as the passing game goes, they were virtually non-existed for much of the year. Chalk finished the year with 13 catches for 60 yards, while Allen had five receptions for 53 yards and Price had four for 41. Not a single one scored a touchdown.
Galloway’s suspension by the NCAA was lifted by the College Football Playoff. He returned and had two key blocks in the Tigers’ Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State and then caught two passes for 60 yards in the national championship against LSU.
This year, Galloway will give Clemson the explosive, athletic pass catcher it has lacked at tight end since Jordan Leggett graduated in 2016. A converted high school quarterback, Galloway’s 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame is similar to Leggett’s. In the national championship he also demonstrated his ability to be a threat in the passing game with his long 43-yard reception against LSU.
The Tigers will have plenty of depth around Galloway, too, with Chalk, Price, Allen, Lay and true freshman Sage Ennis.
“With Braden being back and now Davis being a year older, that’s going to push Chalk,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “And now you’ve got Sage who has come in and he wants to try to compete, so that’s going to push Jaelyn Lay. So, really excited with the bodies that we have there, and I think it’s probably overall — from a talent (standpoint), top to bottom — probably the best group of tight ends that we’ve had. Now we’ve just got to get them all ready to go function in all situations.”
Even though the tight ends didn’t show up a whole lot on the stat sheet last season, Galloway believes the group did other things well besides catching passes and thought they did a solid job in his absence.
“I actually think the tight ends had a great season last year,” he said. “J.C. was asked to step up in a role … The year before that we had Milan (Richard), Cannon (Smith), Garrett (Williams), guys that had been here four or five years, and J.C. really took everybody under his wing, me not being there. I tried to be in their ears, but obviously I’m not out there to show them anything. We did a great job blocking.
“Obviously, everybody messes up a few times. People get down on themselves, but we’ve just got to keep working. But last year I felt like as a group, we played great. I feel like Davis came in and was an immediate impact, and Davis is going to be a great player. (He showed) spurts out here in the spring. So, we’re just trying to be the best we can be.”
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