Some youth was expected to bring a spark to Clemson’s tight end group, but the coaching staff is a bit surprised by just how young one of August’s standouts has been.
Orlando (Fla.) The First Academy product Garrett Williams has leapt from off the radar to a sure first-year player after enrolling this summer. And at a position that’s not lacking for bodies.
It’s a far-cry from the Russell Athletic Bowl last December, where new offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott had one of their scholarship tight ends from fall camp on hand. Dabo Swinney’s pick for the ‘surprise' unit of ‘15 could run seven-deep from junior Jordan Leggett to senior Stanton Seckinger to junior Jay Jay McCullough to sophomore D.J. Greenlee to the freshmen in Milan Richard and Cannon Smith (redshirts) and Williams.
A fullback in high school, Garrett Williams rushed for over 1,200 yards with 21 scores last season, but as a receiver, the 6-2 target averaged 17.1 yards per on 15 receptions with one score.
While the transition in positions would seem to hold him back, Scott says the freshman is already the most physical tight end in the mix, weighing in at 236 to start camp.
“Jordan Leggett has improved a lot. Like where he is. Garrett brings something a little bit different to that group,” Scott said. “Coach Swinney will make his decisions as it goes (on redshirts), but if he’s a guy that plays this year it means we have a lot of confidence he can go in and have an impact and continue to grow in the offense.”
And that decision is all but made per Swinney.
“He’s going to play,” Swinney said. “The kid is physically-gifted. And we knew that. He’s powerful, explosive. He was a power-lifter in high school. You just never know until you start coaching guys what kind of aptitude they have from taking it out of the meeting room to the practice field and executing it at the tempo we play at.
“That’s just what we’ve been blown away by. Very, very, very few mistakes.”
Scott says Williams brings the whole package.
“We’ve had some guys around here that are just in fullback mode and that was their specialty and maybe they were a liability when they got outside,” said Scott. “Garrett has a good balance of both of those and that’s what you’re really looking for in that position…Again, he’s a freshman and he’s got to get experience to get his feet wet.”
There’s been a buzz about him this fall camp.
Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, talking about freshman tight end Garrett Williams
Swinney says Williams’ success is no accident.
“This is a kid that’s a worker. You reap what you sow,” said Swinney. “He’s put that work in and he’s reaped the benefits. He came into camp very well prepared and put in all the time this summer working, studying, getting with older guys. And it showed up in practice. Really pleased with him. He brings a little something different to the group.
“We’re really happy with the group. We’ve got a special group of tight ends. He’s shown he can help us win.”
What about Jay Jay?
Starting camp, Swinney said he had “no expectations” for the junior McCullough, who’s missed significant time for off-the-field issues in the last year.
Scott says he’s had “a good fall camp.”
“Jay Jay has kinda been in that category that Germone Hopper’s in as far as talented and inconsistent,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that play into that on the field and off the field. Really, it’s been as smooth a three or four weeks as we’ve had with him.
“Now it’s a challenge of him (with school) of him staying consistent off the field so that he can have an opportunity on the field. He’s a talented player, but he just has to put it all together.”
Like Swinney, the first-year OC is holding judgment.
“We’ve seen positive signs,” Scott said, “but we’ve also seen those before. We’re cautiously optimistic. He’s got to go out there to prove it week after week for him to really reinsert himself for major playing time.”
McCullough has 11 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in 307 career snaps (two starts).