The preseason accolades continue to pour in for the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. Just now, the 2014 Mackey Award Watch List was released, and — to nobody’s surprise — ‘Nole senior Nick O’Leary is among those mentioned.
O’Leary has to be considered a frontrunner for the award, bestowed upon the nation’s top tight end by a select group of former players, analysts, and announcers since 2000. The 6-3, 244 lb. O’Leary is already the FSU career leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end (11). He trails only Gary Parris for catches (82) and receiving yards (1,125) from the TE spot, but O’Leary, with 66 catches for 973 yards, should pass Parris easily this season, as he figures once again to be a prominent weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, particularly with the departure of receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the ‘Noles run more two tight-end sets, as they return Kevin Haplea from injury.
O’Leary was a finalist for the award last year, but was edged out for the prize by the Washington Huskies’ Austin Seferian-Jenkins, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The other finalist was North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, who is also now in the NFL, with the Detroit Lions.
A throw-back tight end who plays without gloves, O’Leary possesses soft hands but has a mean streak when he carries the ball. He’s a bruising competitor who is unafraid to lower his shoulder and take on all would-be tacklers. Perhaps the main concern for O’Leary will be staying healthy. Since arriving in Tallahassee, he’s twice been injured in motorcycle accidents, the most recent of which caused him to miss spring practice.