Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett raised lots of eyebrows and generated plenty of front-page fodder last season when he confessed to being lazy.
His incriminating yet refreshingly honest self-assessment was supported by Leggett’s on-field performance – an inconsistent 12-catch, two-touchdown season that left Clemson fans and coaches yearning for more from the player whose upside was in dire need of a kick to the backside.
As the Tigers prepare to open the 2014 season on Saturday evening at Georgia, Leggett says he has turned over a new leaf.
“Lazy Leggett” is striving to become “Lively Leggett.”
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“Last year I was kind of cocky, and the lazy factor and all,” Leggett said. “But I’ve gotten better with that. Everybody has a bad day once in a while, and I might hear that name a couple of times, but I’m trying to put it behind me.”
Leggett can do that by focusing more on what’s in front of him – namely, opposing defensive linemen.
“(The coaches) said if I wanted to get on the field and be a more complete player and play 50 snaps a game, I’m going to have to be blocker as well as a route runner,” Leggett said. “Coach (Chad) Morris said he’s not going to put me in just for the fade routes up the sideline, I’m going to have to become a better blocker.
“I hope to change that this year and play more snaps. I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m still learning from (senior Sam) Cooper, because he’s one of the best blockers we have.”
There’s little debate that Leggett is the most athletic of the Tigers’ tight ends, and he showed as much last season with an 18-yard touchdown catch against Wake Forest and a 43-yard reception against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
In a situational scrimmage on Aug. 13, Leggett logged seven receptions and two touchdowns. But being a receiving threat is one facet of the game for a tight end, which is why the 6-foot-5, 251-pound Leggett has seen limited action despite his skills.
“In time,” Leggett said. “Hopefully, I’ll be that complete tight end.”
Leggett continues to listen to Cooper and also has received advice from former Clemson tight end and Mackey Award winner Dwayne Allen, who plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
“He told me that anybody can block,” Leggett said. “You’ve just got to have the will to do it.”
For the first time in years, the Tigers’ depth chart runs four deep at tight end. While Leggett has the most potential, Cooper is the anticipated starter based on experience, savvy and blocking ability.
Stanton Seckinger – who had a touchdown catch last season against Georgia – and J.J. McCullough have shined, with McCullough coming off his best fall camp.
“We’re very blessed at that position,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “This is a very dynamic group. We feel good about them.”
Not many others do – at least not yet. Despite a recent tight end legacy that includes Michael Palmer, Brandon Ford and, of course, Allen, Clemson has nary a player on the Mackey Award Watch List.
“People aren’t giving us much credit,” Leggett said. “But I think we’re going to go out there and turn some heads.
“By the end of the season, I hope to make them regret not putting me on the list.”