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FSU Freshman Impact: Nick O'Leary


Back in January, when Nick O'Leary committed to the Seminoles, Tomahawk Nation had this to say:

O'Leary stands 6'3" and weighs 235 lbs. Nick does everything on the football field well. He is an excellent blocker for his size. His hands are well above average, making difficult catches regularly. His athleticism is unquestioned (he has scholarship offers for multiple different sports, including lacrosse offers at elite Northeastern schools). He plays the game smart, running precise routes and separating in the seam. Great body control and balance. His agility and low center of gravity help him to get open underneath. O'Leary is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. He is too big for a safety and much too quick for a college linebacker. Think Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Fisher is delighted to have O'Leary aboard and he will certainly be used in a variety of formations and plays very early in his career.

O'Leary chose Florida State over offers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Ohio State. With the exception of USC and Texas, O'Leary was offered by every major program in the country.

As you can see from the video below, that analysis would appear to be spot on.

Keeping in mind that the coaches have been fairly generous with their praise about O'Leary's practice performance, notwithstanding the staff's normally reserved approach toward players who have yet to actually contribute in game situations, there is great reason to be optimistic that O'Leary will be a significant contributor this season. But what does that mean in the context of FSU's offense? Jump to find out.

Take a look back at tight end production at FSU over the past five seasons. I've excluded marginal contributors.

FSU Tight End Production 2006-2010
Name Year GP Rec. Yards Yards Avg. TD Rec./G Yards/G
Brandon Warren 2006/F 13 28 301 10.75 1 2.2 23.2
Bo Reiliford 2010/Jr. 13 17 198 11.65 1 1.3 15.2
Caz Piurowski 2009/Sr. 6 13 182 14 2 2.2 30.3
Charlie Graham 2007/So. 12 11 84 7.64 1 0.9 7
Bo Reiliford 2009/So. 13 11 89 8.09 2 0.8 6.8
Caz Piurowski 2008/Jr. 10 8 83 10.38 1 0.8 8.3
Caz Piurowski 2006/F 11 7 55 7.86 0 0.6 5
Charlie Graham 2006/F 8 3 42 14 0 0.4 5.3
Bo Reiliford 2008/Fr. 3 1 8 8 0 0.3 2.7

A couple of things stand out. First, Florida State has not had a true pass-catching tight end since Brandon Warren (who was a third team Freshman All American). Second, had Caz not gotten injured his senior season, he was on track for around 25 receptions and 4-5 touchdowns. This would have been far and away the most productive season out of the tight end position in the last five years, and would have been even more impressive considering Caz was shifted back and forth between offensive line and tight end during his career at Florida State. Third, under Jimbo Fisher, only one tight end has averaged more than 1.5 catches per game (Caz in his abbreviated senior season @ 2.2).

Given FSU's historical utilization of the tight end, where does O'Leary fit in? Without coverage, O'Leary appears to enter and exit his break smoothly, and catches the ball with good technique. In terms of pure pass-catching ability, he is without question the most talented player FSU has had on the roster since Brandon Warren.

With coverage, O'Leary sells the route down the pipe, gets good separation from the middle linebacker, and adjusts to make a catch on a late ball that was thrown slightly behind him. This would have been a much cleaner catch if EJ had been on time.

Of course, chemistry and timing with the Quarterback plays a role in how much a true freshman tight end or receiver is able to contribute. On balance, EJ and O'Leary seemed to have it, notwithstanding the video below.

As far as intangibles go, O'Leary appears to be an old school, hard worker. He doesn't wear gloves. During open practice, if he wasn't in the play, he was near Jimbo, listening to what he had to say. And during the water break, he took a knee on the sideline basically by himself, and appeared to be reflecting on what had happened on the field.

Bottom line, if O'Leary can stay injury free, and considering lack of a clear play maker ahead of him on the depth chart, he projects to have in the neighborhood of 20 catches and average around 12.5 yards per catch. Numbers like these would be an excellent result, and would make him a significant threat in the passing game. If he exceeds those numbers, or has a disproportionate number of his catches also result in touchdowns, he could end up being a freshman All-American. As a point of reference, 2010 Freshman All-American TE Ted Bosler (Indiana) caught 27 passes in 12 games for 407 yards (15 yards/catch) and 5 touchdowns.

Hit the poll and use the comments to discuss your projections.