After combining to catch only 26 passes for 239 yards and zero touchdowns all of last season, Clemson’s tight ends have already recorded nine receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown through the first two games of 2020. The unit was particularly productive and flashed its potential in the season opener at Wake Forest on Sept. 12 when it hauled in seven receptions for 114 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown catch by J.C. Chalk.
Sophomore Davis Allen has contributed 44 yards receiving with a couple of receptions on the young campaign — including a career-long 42-yard grab against the Demon Deacons — and he is grateful to be a part of the Tigers’ tight end group that appears as prevalent in the passing game as it has been since 2016 when Jordan Leggett was on the team.
“It’s been really cool,” Allen said this week. “I’m super thankful I get to be a part of it. We have a really, really fun group, and I feel like the tight ends have really worked hard to have a big part in this offense. Back in the offseason, we set goals for ourselves as a group. We wanted to have an impact in the passing game and be effective with our blocking as well. I think we’ve gotten off to a good start, and we’re just looking forward to keep growing as the season goes on.”
In 2015 and 2016, Leggett totaled 86 receptions for 1,261 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 14.6 yards per catch. Over the past three seasons after the former All-American moved on to the NFL, eight Clemson tight ends combined for only 66 receptions for 656 yards and four touchdowns. They averaged just 9.9 yards per reception.
But this season, the Tigers are deeper at tight end than they have been over the last few years. The return of junior Braden Galloway from his suspension in 2019 has given the unit a big boost, and behind him, Clemson has guys like Allen and Chalk to provide depth, not to mention talented youngsters like redshirt freshman Jaelyn Lay and true freshman Sage Ennis who both look to have bright futures.
There has been no shortage of competition amongst the group, and Allen says the tight ends are all pushing each other to be better every day while also pulling for one another to be successful.
“In practice, we’re all competing against each other as well, and I think that’s what makes it fun and we’re having fun with it,” Allen said. “I think the relationships in the room have been great. I think we’re all really close, I think we’re all close friends, and we’re having a lot of fun with it.”
For Allen personally, he has come a long way in his development since his freshman year in 2019, especially from a mental standpoint.
Tight end is the second-hardest position to learn in Clemson’s offense behind quarterback, and Allen admittedly struggled to pick things up right away upon his arrival to campus but has made strides in his knowledge of the position over the past year or so.
“I’d definitely say it’s a challenge,” Allen said. “Just like the quarterback, the quarterback, they have to know what’s going on everywhere, what everybody’s job is. It’s the same for the tight end – we’ve got to know what the offensive line is doing, what the quarterback is thinking on this play, and the reads we have to make – we’ve got to know a lot. That was a change a little bit coming in last year, just all the terminology I needed to learn and the concepts I needed to learn. It was a challenge at first.”
Allen suffered a broken foot last summer prior to the start of the 2019 season, and while the injury set him back physically, he believes it was a blessing in disguise looking back on it as it allowed him to sit back, take everything in and get a better grasp of all that is asked of the tight ends in Clemson’s offense.
“I couldn’t really do a whole lot physically, so I just kind of stayed in the meeting room and watched as much film as possible and took notes as much as possible,” Allen said. “I feel like I still was learning throughout the entire year last year. I was still picking up on things the entire year, and coming into this year, I felt a lot more comfortable just because I have a year under my belt.”
Not only has Allen grown in the mental part of his game, but he has also grown physically since he joined the Tigers.
The Calhoun, Ga., native finished his senior year at Calhoun High School around 230, 235 pounds and weighed about 237 pounds before he came to Clemson in the summer of 2019. Now, he checks in at close to 250 pounds thanks to his work in the weight room and the help of the Tigers’ nutrition staff.
“I think really just eating right and the nutrition helped me a lot, and just being in the weight room as much as possible and doing what I need to do there has helped,” he said. “I feel good, and my eating is a lot better.”
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