Clemson football running low on tight ends: Another injury strikes

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are down to three healthy scholarship tight ends.

Clemson freshman tight end Jordan Leggett suffered an MCL injury during a recent scrimmage that could keep him out of action for three or four weeks. Tight end was a major question mark for the Tigers prior to Leggett's setback, and now the situation is that much more dire.

Clemson lost Brandon Ford, who was third on the team in receiving last year, to graduation, and junior Sam Cooper tore an ACL in the spring. With Leggett down, the Tigers have three healthy scholarship players at tight end and not much experience. Head coach Dabo Swinney speaks highly of Darrell Smith, who may end up as the starter given the circumstances, but he has a grand total of one career reception.

The tight end position is important for the Clemson offense, as Swinney explained (via The State):

"Most people don't understand just how critical that position is to what we're do. It's probably the toughest position to play outside of quarterback," Swinney said. "We don't rarely ever not have a tight end in the game. If Jordan's out, we only have three guys, so we may have to get someone else ready - an extra (offensive lineman) or somebody - to allow us to do what we do."

The instability at tight end adds another measure of uncertainty to the Tigers' passing game, which needs new targets to emerge given Ford's graduation and Nuke Hopkins' departure for the NFL. SB Nation's Bill Connelly discussed that in his preview of the Tigers on Tuesday:

Hopkins, tight end Brandon Ford, and Jaron Brown all averaged at least 8.6 yards per target, and all three are gone. Adam Humphries was a solid pitch-and-catch guy last year, and four-star juniors Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant could be ready for a step up. But the best news for this unit could be if redshirt freshman Germone Hopper and freshmen Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett keep making plays like they did in Clemson's first fall scrimmage. There are former four-stars galore here, which means the odds are pretty good that somebody will step up in to the No. 2 role. But we won't know somebody can do it until they do it.

It remains to be seen just how big of a setback this will be for Leggett.

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