- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn't work to lure any of Penn State's players away in the wake of the NCAA's devastating sanctions this summer, but when Kevin Haplea said he was interested, it seemed a good fit.
Now, just a month after Haplea arrived at Florida State, Fisher and his staff are counting their blessings.
Backup tight end Dan Hicks is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee, which means Haplea has stepped into a potentially significant role on the Seminoles' offense.
"We didn't know that Dan was going to get hurt, but knowing that we have Kevin, it's going to be huge for us, somebody to fill that void," quarterback EJ Manuel said.
Haplea has looked impressive as a blocker, which should complement the skill set of starting tight end Nick O'Leary. Haplea has consistently worked with the starters in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and Manuel said he has shown no signs he's a novice to the system.
"He was able to come in and he just wanted to learn," Manuel said. "He came out one day for 7-on-7 and then went right into practice. That's hard for somebody to do. Then you're around all new guys and I'm sure we're different than Penn State, but he's blending in well, and he's doing a great job blocking, protecting me."
There also remains the chance that freshman Christo Kourtzidis could see some action Saturday, too, despite still being a bit behind the curve physically.
"He has great hands, great route running," Manuel said. "I think with Christo, once he gets older he'll get bigger and stronger."
7dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon