Tigers' tight ends
What Clemson's tight ends did last season:
Stanton Seckinger: 21 receptions, 244 yards, 4 TDs
Jordan Leggett: 12 receptions, 176 yards, 2 TDs
Sam Cooper: 6 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD
Jay Jay McCullough: 4 receptions, 17 yards, 0 TD
CLEMSON - Every now and then, Stanton Seckinger recalls his second career touchdown and smiles.
He was the hero, the headline, the guy who beat Georgia - the Porter-Gaud product's dad's alma mater - with his 9-yard touchdown catch with 7:40 remaining on opening night last fall.
A little less memorably but still significant, the tight end's 5-yard score capped Clemson's go-ahead drive in the Tigers' Orange Bowl win against Ohio State.
Not too shabby, bookending his sophomore season with the clutch catch to clinch two of Clemson's biggest wins in recent memory. But memories are meant for idle moments of daydreaming; Seckinger, entering his junior season, won't hang his hat on career highlights.
"Obviously, it's a great memory. But hey, I have expectations that I'll have better memories in the future," Seckinger said. "I enjoy thinking about that night, but in the end, that's in the past. You can't live off that."
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris, frankly, wouldn't let Seckinger or his fellow tight ends.
Seckinger's four touchdown catches ranked third on the Tigers last year (and tops among returning players), but that's about the most impressive statistic from the tight ends group.
This is what annoys Morris about the 2013 distribution: 48 catches by running backs, 43 catches by tight ends.
"That's never happened since I've been in the system," Morris said. "So we're really expecting those guys to create a little bit more mismatches and be a little bit more into the game-planning part of it."
Experience favors Seckinger, Sam Cooper, Jordan Leggett and Jay Jay McCullough, giving tight ends coach Danny Pearman the same quartet he worked with last season, a far cry from the turnover at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
"We sat down as a group, me, Sam, Jordan and Jay Jay, and we were like, we've all played in games. We've all been out there in the hot fire," Seckinger said. "Listen, all these other positions got new guys who have never played before. We can be that foundation as leaders and people who know the offense."
With a new quarterback to break in, tight end could serve as a security blanket, whether one candidate seizes the job or it's filled by committee. Previously under Morris, tight end production was in decent hands with Dwayne Allen (49 receptions, 592 yards in 2011) and Brandon Ford (40 receptions, 480 yards in 2012), hence his disappointment.
"You hope that group really comes on this year," Morris said. "To me, last year I thought their performance level was way off of where it needed to be."
Cooper is less than a year removed from tearing his ACL in last year's spring game, Leggett battled focus issues and a knee injury suffered in fall camp, and McCullough has been taking reps at running back. Cooper's best moment was a key touchdown catch vs. North Carolina State; Leggett's was a 43-yard gain in the Orange Bowl.
Any of those players could move on up, but the converted wide receiver Seckinger remains the top pass-catching option in uniform.
"For me, moving from wide receiver to tight end, my strong suit was route-running, catching the ball," Seckinger said. "So I definitely feel like a tight end, but that's something I don't want to lose."
When the thick of spring practices seems mundane, Morris urges his players to try to improve one percent that day. Seckinger's taken that advice to heart.
"I set goals for myself, and once I achieve those goals, I set another goal even higher," Seckinger said. "You can't ever be content with what you've done. When you get in there, get your opportunity, make a play."