March 13, 2014
Whether it was just luck or the possibility he’s secretly a robot, Nick O’Leary went unscathed through the entire 2013 season despite being the only healthy true tight end on Florida State’s roster.
Sure, Jimbo Fisher had moved during fall camp former defensive end Giorgio Newberry to that position and former walk-on Shayne Broxsie was moved from fullback. But with so little experience playing tight end between the two, O’Leary was the only viable and consistent option at that spot all year following injuries to Kevin Haplea and Jeremy Kerr before the season ever started.
O’Leary showed an off-field ability to avoid injury when he thankfully survived a scary summertime motorcycle accident. He then went out and played in all 14 games without missing a beat and put together the greatest season of his career — and historically one of the best ever among FSU tight ends.
The Palm Beach, Fla. native finished the year with 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. O’Leary enters spring practice considered one of the top players at his position in the entire nation for 2014.
The 2013 ‘Noles offense set the all-time national record for points scored in a season and O’Leary’s pass-catching ability certainly helped accomplish that feat. And spring practices will once again showcase O’Leary as a key a focal point of the offense. In fact, with wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw no longer on the team, O'Leary will probably be an even bigger part of the Seminoles' identity.
But he now he has help.
Haplea became the No. 2 tight end in 2012 after transferring from Penn State and was penciled into that role before injuring his knee during summer workouts. Now healthy, he provides experienced blocking as well as good hands that could provide FSU the ability to run more two tight-ends sets this spring.
“[Haplea] has been outstanding,” Fisher said a the end of 4th Quarter Drills last week. “The best he’s look since he’s been here. He’s taking that time to work and has been really outstanding.”
In Kerr, the ‘Noles will introduce a player with a 6-foot-6 frame and tremendous blocking ability into the tight-end rotation during spring practices. Kerr could earn playing time as an extra blocker in a similar role to the one Newberry provided last year.
As for Newberry, the big-bodied former pass rusher will benefit from getting the extra time to hone his craft at the position. How the depth chart shakes out with each of these players behind O’Leary will be interesting to monitor this spring as the Seminoles are set to add this summer exciting young tight ends Mavin Saunders and Ryan Izzo.
2014 Seminoles.com Spring-Practice Preview Series: