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On The Beat: Clemson’s post-Leggett tight end battle begins

March 4, 2017

CLEMSON - After quarterback Deshaun Watson, the next most difficult player to replace from Clemson’s national championship team is probably tight end Jordan Leggett. As a senior, Leggett caught 46 passes for 736 yards and seven touchdowns.

His diving catch to extend Clemson’s game-winning touchdown drive against Alabama has become legendary. It was one of seven passes Leggett caught in Tampa.

The production void is part of the problem. The other is inexperience: the rest of the Tiger tight ends combined for five catches last season – just four more than defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.

Replacement candidates include rising juniors Cannon Smith, Garrett Williams and Milan Richard, senior D.J. Greenlee, redshirt freshman J.C. Chalk (grandson of former Alabama head coach Gene Stallings) and Shadell Bell, a sophomore converted wide receiver.

“It’s very competitive,” Smith said Friday after Clemson’s second practice this spring. “We’re just trying to figure out who can be that all-around guy. We’re pushing each other to be the best that we can be.”

Smith said he is particularly impressed with Bell, his physical play and improved route-running.

Center of attention

Justin Falcinelli put it this way, with a big grin: “You can’t replace Jay Guillermo.”

Guillermo, along with starting all 15 games for the Tigers last season, was the vocal leader of the offensive line.

A 6-3, 305-pound rising redshirt junior from Middletown, Md., Falcinelli is next in line.

“I’ve played in almost every big game we’ve been in,” he said, “so nothing overwhelms me.”

Falcinelli didn’t play in the national championship victory over Alabama, but has appeared in 24 college games and got 174 snaps last season.

Pads Saturday

The Tigers practices without pads Friday but full gear is planned for Saturday.

The spring game is set for Sunday, April 8 at 3 p.m.