Freshman tight end Jaelyn Lay making an impression in spring practice

by - Senior Writer -
Lay takes instruction from head coach Dabo Swinney
Lay takes instruction from head coach Dabo Swinney

CLEMSON - Freshman tight end Jaelyn Lay heard the unmistakable growl of tight ends coach Danny Pearman and whipped his head around, a look of bewilderment on his face. A few minutes later, Lay showed that he had taken Pearman’s guidance to heart and ran a route that drew a smile from former Clemson tight end Garrett Williams.

Make a mistake. Learn. Get better. It’s all part of the process for Lay, a 6-5, 245-pound specimen out of Georgia who has all of the physical tools to be a dominant tight end on the collegiate level. What he lacks is experience, and it showed during the early portion of spring practice.

"He was hyperventilating out here the first couple of days," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "He's a pleaser; he likes to please. He knows it, he can draw it on the board, but then all of a sudden you actually get out there full speed, and you panic and Coach Pearman is yelling at you, and then it's all downhill. That's just kind of how it is for those guys right now, like dropping 'em into the grease.

"The last couple of practices, he's smoothed out a bit. Make no mistake; he's going to be special.”

With the loss of Williams, Milan Richard, and Cannon Smith to graduation and the uncertain status of Braden Galloway, Lay might have to play sooner rather than later. That means a steep learning curve.

“Those guys do so many things for us — formation adjustments, they’re the boundary receiver, they’re the two-back in the backfield, blocking,” Swinney said. “There’s a lot of stuff he’s going to need to learn to be able to function.”

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scot said that Lay has made an early impression.

"He's getting thrown right into the fire, which is good for him, but it's tough,” Scott said. “Very athletic, strong. Probably the thing I'm most pleased with is out of all the freshmen; he's probably been in the meeting room the most. When we're walking in and out of staff meeting rooms, you kind of peek in there to see who's in there, and I would say Jaelyn has been there more than anybody."

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is a big fan.

“I've not seen a more competitive player than Jaelyn Lay. His skillset is super, super special,” Venables said. “We (linebackers) matched up with the tight ends in camp, and Jaelyn Lay is the most impressive tight end I have seen in a camp since I've been coaching.

“Hopefully he brings work ethic and toughness and competitiveness to grind with him — and I believe he will because I think he's made of the right stuff. I really like what he's about. I've been as impressed with him as anybody I've seen in camp, at any position.”

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