Aug. 1, 2013
What once was a position of strength heading into the summer months, has quickly and not-so-quietly turned into a position without much depth heading into fall camp for the Florida State football team.
Despite reserve>Will Tye's decision to transfer to Stony Brook prior to the start of spring practices, FSU was still expected to enter the 2013 campaign with three talented returners at tight end and one intriguing freshman. But the game of football is often defined by "expect the unexpected" logic and that is exactly what has happened since the 'Noles concluded spring practices last April.
First, rising senior>Kevin Haplea went down with a season-ending knee injury in June. The former Penn State player was expected to see his opportunities within the offense increase in his final year with the Seminoles after experiencing a full year to fully digest and master Jimbo Fisher's offense. Instead, Haplea will watch from the sidelines this year as a redshirt.
Then rising sophomore>Christo Kourtzidis informed Fisher last week of his intention to transfer from the program. Kourtzidis had sustained a shoulder injury that limited his time on the field this past spring but would have been a valuable contributor as the second-string tight end once he was fully healthy in the wake of Haplea's injury.
Two returning, high-expectations scholarship tight ends; two critical losses.
Without Haplea and Kourtzidis, returning starter>Nick O'Leary enters his third year in the program with the weight of carrying the position under new tight ends coach Tim Brewster virtually by himself.
O'Leary is coming off a career year as a sophomore last season when he started 11 games and caught 21 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. A Mackey Award candidate, O'Leary's 2012 campaign was one of the most successful seasons for an FSU tight end in recent memory and he'll have the chance to increase those numbers even more this season. Thankfully, O'Leary is alright after a scary motorcycle crash that has recently made national headlines.
The question now is, who is behind O'Leary on the depth chart?
True freshman>Jeremy Kerr has been on campus since June and is physically ready for the college game at 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds. But expecting a rookie to contribute immediately on the second team is no guarantee and with only one scholarship player at fullback in Chad Abram, Brewster and Fisher may have to get a bit creative with how they utilize their personnel when it comes to creating a rotation and competition at tight end and h-back.
A player like senior tackle Jonathan Wallace, who has been in the program for three years and was recently awarded a scholarship, could be given an opportunity. The 'Noles also boast several young and versatile young players that could be utilized if the situation presented itself.
Redshirt senior Dan Hicks is not expected to be a factor, though. Hicks, a redshirt senior, moved to tight end from defensive end last year before sustaining a season-ending injury and missing the entire year. Fully healthy, Hicks moved back to defensive end this past spring and was one of the top performers at his old spot and is in position earn the starting job.