The TE position has been good to Clemson throughout most of the Dabo Swinney era. With guys like Brandon Ford, Dwayne Allen, and Jordan Leggett, it was a position that the team saw a lot of production from. Since Leggett’s departure to the NFL after the 2016 season however, the Tigers have had a problem getting production from the TE position in the passing game.
Braden Galloway was supposed to change all that in 2019. Unfortunately, due to the archaic NCAA, the sophomore TE is suspended until the end of December. That means it’s possible the Tigers are looking at a third consecutive season in which they don’t get a whole lot of production from the position when it comes to the passing game.
Let’s take a look at the guys vying for playing time.
JC Chalk is a redshirt junior, but has just 4 catches for 40 yards in his career. He has played just 151 snaps over 12 games the last two seasons.
Chalk just isn’t the guy that’s going to get it done in the passing game. He’s much more of a blocking TE. In this offense, the goal is to create mismatches with the TE and Chalk doesn’t possess that kind of speed. That’s not a knock on him, running routes and catching passes just hasn’t been his strong suit. He should still see the field plenty, but his contributions are more likely to come in the running game or pass protection as a blocker.
Behind Chalk, you have two true freshmen, Jaelyn Lay and Davis Allen. When asked about what kind of impact he expects from these two, Jeff Scott recently replied, “I think they are going to have an impact because they are going to play, just based on where our numbers are.”
Honestly, that’s saying a lot without saying much at all. Sure, they’ll have an impact, but it’s the kind of impact either of these guys have that remains to be seen. There’s a lot that goes into playing the tight end position in this offense and it’s extremely difficult for freshman to digest it all, and then translate it onto the field in one season. If you need an example, look no further than Galloway’s freshmen campaign in 2018.
Lay is without question, a physical specimen. At 6’6, it’s fun to imagine the havoc he will wreak in the future. After weighing in at 273 lbs, along with reports of him being sluggish to open camp, one has to assume he could be just a tad to heavy. If he is to heavy, it’s not by much, and it’s safe to think he could drop a few pounds in camp while practicing in that heat.
As far as Davis Allen goes, think Garrett Williams if you want someone he might be similar too. Allen was rated as the 15th best HBack TE prospect in the country by ESPN last year. Davis has also been hampered by injury and began camp in the yellow “no contact” jersey.
If the Tigers are going to get more out of their tight ends in the passing game in 2019, it’s likely to fall on Lay. He was an early enrollee, giving him a head start on learning the offense. However, even with the head start, expecting him to come in and make a major contribution is a big ask of a freshman. It’s safer to assume that when we do see the tight ends flexed out, it will be more as a decoy, and a way to create a mismatch for one of the many talented wide receivers the Tigers have on their roster.