The build up to the first year under offensive coordinator Rob Spence had much to do with his use of the tight end. In Spence’s final season at Toledo, he had two tight ends with over 30 catches. The tight end had not been a big factor in Clemson’s offense under Tommy Bowden.
The first area that needed to be addressed was in recruiting. Fortunately, the Tigers has already locked up two talented tight ends in Paul Muse and Durrell Barry.
Barry was expected to make an immediate impact last season, but along with Muse, he redshirted.
Muse and Barry were able to redshirt largely due to walk-on Thomas Hunter. Hunter may have been the biggest surprise in 2005 for Clemson. Hunter was a junior on the field, but a senior in the classroom.
At the beginning of the year, Hunter had decided he would declare himself a senior and that this would be his last season at Clemson, because even Hunter himself did not see the high number snaps coming his way.
After Cole Downer went down with a ruptured spleen against Miami, Hunter was pushed into a bigger role. Hunter handled the role well, and he actually became the starter over veteran Bobby Williamson.
Hunter will return for one final season at Clemson as the starting tight end. Muse, Barry, and Akeem Robinson will be his back-ups.
Robinson has made the biggest strides this spring. Robinson was probably the best blocker of the tight ends last season, but he needed to work on catching the football. Robinson worked really hard over winter workouts, and he has been a mainstay after practice this spring, working on catching the football.
The real wild card for the tight ends is Rendrick Taylor. Spence created a hybrid wide receiver position to account for Taylor’s size and athleticism. Taylor will be used like a pass catching tight end, but his skill set could pose multiple problems for defenses.
The tight end will become a bigger part in the offense yet again this year, and it is a role that will be welcomed by Hunter and company.