CLEMSON — Jordan Leggett didn’t need to consider his options very long.
Less than an hour after the end of the national championship loss to Alabama on Jan. 11, in the locker room in Glendale, Ariz., Clemson’s longtime tight end who as a freshman openly called himself “lazy” and in last year’s fall camp addressed 2015 as “his money year” proclaimed himself unfit for the professional ranks.
“I’m probably going to come back, man,” Leggett told The Post and Courier in the locker room. “I’ve got to win me one before I leave.”
And while a boatload of defensive players declared for the NFL draft, Leggett and running back Wayne Gallman decided “one more year won’t be so bad” (Gallman’s words, on Twitter.) Perhaps the chance to play another year with quarterback Deshaun Watson had some form of impact on their career choices.
In Leggett’s case, choosing to return was a mild surprise simply because his attitude seemed to indicate he was ready to move on. He’s had more downs than ups at Clemson; it wasn’t his decision to play his freshman year (he’d have preferred a 2013 redshirt), but basically the program has counted on him and him alone at the tight end position since before Watson was even on campus.
The Navarre, Fla., product had just 26 catches and three touchdowns his first two years. He wasn’t a troublemaker, but there seemed to be some consternation among the coaching staff begging Leggett to take full advantage of his obvious physical gifts.
Leggett finally broke through in 2015, catching eight touchdown passes and becoming one of the nation’s few impact tight ends in the passing game.
Two things Clemson fans (and NFL scouts) will look for from Leggett in what truly is his “money year” — first, he has to finish stronger while illustrating more dominance. After exploding for six touchdowns in a five-game span before Halloween, Leggett then went five games without scoring. He did have a clutch TD at the end of the first half of the ACC Championship against North Carolina, but his title-game TD was essentially in garbage time. Also, Leggett caught a ball in all 15 games, but he had just one reception five times and exceeded four receptions only twice.
And two, he needs to continue to refine his blocking. That’s what will prove him as a three-down tight end; it’s possible the NFL Draft Advisory Board critiqued that factor on Leggett’s feedback form, thus dropping his draft estimation and convincing Leggett to log one more year of college ball.
Besides, keeping rush linebackers off of Watson and Gallman is critical to Clemson’s offensive success and helping the Tigers win Leggett a national championship before he leaves.