CLEMSON — When his friends from Porter-Gaud High see him now, the first thing they seem to notice about Stanton Seckinger is the size of his neck.
It’s understandable. Pictures of Seckinger before he entered Clemson are of a long, slender kid with a flop of brown hair and a prominent Adam’s apple.
“When I was 205 pounds and they told me they wanted me at 225, 230, I said there was no way.” A week from the first game of the season, Seckinger tipped the scales at nearly 240 pounds. “When I look at a picture now, it’s weird,” he said. “I’m a lot different guy.”
Seckinger, a redshirt sophomore, might be the nearest thing to a secret weapon in Chad Morris’ offensive arsenal. Seckinger has grown into the tight end role quite well, as if born to it.
Before camp, coach Dabo Swinney said he wanted “some growth” at tight end. It would appear Seckinger delivered and, in the process, offered a measure of confidence eroded when junior Sam Cooper, the team’s most experienced tight end, went down during the spring game with a torn knee ligament.
That left senior Darrell Smith, with one catch in 37 games, as the next most experienced at the position. Freshman Jordan Leggett, a January enrollee, eased some of the angst surfacing with the loss of Brandon Ford to graduation by playing beyond his years during the spring. A sprained MCL last week probably delayed his debut a game or two, though Swinney held out hope for Georgia. Redshirt freshman Jay Jay McCullough has the tools but doesn’t yet understand how to use them, Swinney said.
“It’s kind of Seckinger’s time to step up, and I think he will,” he said. “I know he’s just a sophomore and played a little bit and he has been through some battles on our practice field. He’s got a maturity to him, and I think he’ll respond.
“He’s performed well on the practice field, but he has to go put some games together,” Swinney said. “Seckinger’s going to make some mistakes, but I think when the year’s over, if he stays healthy, he’s going to be a good player. I think he’ll be a factor for us.”
In a class that included Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant, he’s the sleeper. At 6-foot-4, he fits the part, the hair cropped to a nub with that neck a strong trunk on thick shoulders. An all-state three-sport athlete in high school, Seckinger first attracted scouts with hands that snagged 105 catches for 1,833 yards and 26 touchdowns his senior season. The additional size correlates to his rising confidence as a blocker.
“I think a lot of confidence came from putting on weight,” he said. “I worked a lot this summer, especially on blocking technique. I think getting better in the technique and putting the weight on really helped me as far as confidence down in the trenches.”
Additionally, it has allowed him to apply his understanding of the offense. Because of its complex role, Swinney said, the tight end needs to know the playbook nearly as well a quarterback.
“My goal, my objective is to gain as much knowledge as I can before I hit the field, and so far I have done that,” Seckinger said. “I feel like my knowledge of the offense has shot out the roof compared to last year.”