With Dwayne Allen off to the NFL, a position that was a serious strength for the Clemson Tigers has turned into a serious question mark.
Who will replace Allen, both as a red-zone threat and Tajh Boyd's safety blanket? Can you expect similar production from whoever takes his place?
These are all valid concerns as Clemson looks to replace a lot of receiving yards and a lot of touchdowns on their quest to improve on last year's 10-4 campaign that saw them win the ACC Championship, only to give up 70 points in the Orange Bowl.
Here is what you need to know about the men tasked with replacing Dwayne Allen.
Brandon Ford is a redshirt junior who came to Clemson as a hot wide receiver prospect, but things have changed. Now that there is a gaping hole where there used to be Dwayne Allen, the Tigers have converted Ford.
He caught 14 passes last year for 166 yards and two touchdowns—not bad for a backup wide receiver/tight end. The bad news is that 50 of those yards came on one reception. While that doesn't strengthen his case for his statistical output, it does demonstrate that he has the ability to make big plays.
Standing at 6'4" and 220 pounds, he does have the frame for elite size at the tight end position, but we'll have to see whether he can put on the necessary weight, and in the right way, to become an elite tight end.
Sam Cooper is a redshirt freshman coming to the Tigers ready to contribute right away.
Last year, he only recorded one reception for 18 yards, but as you can probably surmise from his class title, it was a redshirt year, so he probably wasn't given much opportunity.
Cooper was a First-team All-southern team selection by the Orlando Sentinel his senior year of high school. He was the ranked as the 53rd tight end in the nation by Scout.com and the 14th best player out of Tennessee by SuperPrep.
He has the more prototypical tight end size, standing 6'5" and 240 pounds, but is more raw than Ford, a product of not having the same level of experience.
Look for Cooper's time and touches to both increase this season.
If you look at Clemson's receiving stats as a team last year, you'll see that while no one would argue that Dwayne Allen is a special talent at the tight end position, his numbers weren't exactly through the roof.
Allen registered 598 yards on 50 receptions—good enough to be the team's third leading receiver. However, 600 yards is not an overwhelming amount of production to replace between two guys—on top of the yards that other young receivers are going to be bringing in.
Where they'll miss Allen the most is in the touchdown department, specifically the red zone. He scored eight touchdowns last year and was an invaluable part of the team's short yardage packages.
If Ford or Cooper can develop into a strong red-zone threat, don't plan on the Tigers missing Allen as much as anyone originally thought.
The hard truth of the matter is that regardless of who the Tigers get to replace Allen, they'll be far from the focal point of the offense.
With players like Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins coming back, tight end won't be the No. 1 option on a lot of plays.
Returning for the Tigers is their starting quarterback (Boyd), their leading rusher (Andre Ellington) and four of their top five receivers from last season (Watkins, Hopkins, Jaron Brown and Martavis Bryant).
Their sixth leading receiver, you ask? Brandon Ford.
I'm not trying to say that replacing a Mackey Award winner will be easy, because it won't. The truth is, Allen's value to this team can't be measured in X's and O's.
What I am trying to say is that between Ford and Cooper—not to mention the rest of the offensive weapons that the Tigers are getting back—I think they can pick up where they left off and contend for another ACC Title, and redemption.