Tuesday, July 2, 2013
FSU Countdown: No. 24 Nick O'Leary
By David M. Hale
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.
FSU tight end Nick O'Leary needs to focus on doing the little things well.
What he's done: In two seasons at Florida State, O'Leary has proved to be the most productive tight end the program has had in a while, catching 33 passes for 416 yards and five touchdowns. Of course, given the immense hype he had as a recruit -- the consensus top-rated TE in the country -- those numbers don't exactly match the expectations most fans had. He's been a two-year starter, but never a star. He's made some big plays, but also some ugly ones. He's been good, but he hasn't been great. Despite all his talent, he finished eighth among ACC tight ends in receptions in 2012.
Where he's at: If numerous questions remain about O'Leary's future, one thing that's certain is that he's in no danger of losing his starting job. He may not have worked his way into as big a slice of the offense as many fans had hoped thus far, but his talent continues to make him a potentially significant mismatch for opposing defenses. And while he missed a chunk of spring practice with an injury, he's got little to no competition on the depth chart now that senior Kevin Haplea will sit out the season with a torn ACL. For O'Leary, it's not about establishing a role in 2013, but rather, he'll be trying to expand the boundaries of the one he's already created.
What's to come: O'Leary's numbers haven't been eye-popping through two seasons, but he's steadily expanded the significance of his position group each season. That figures to happen again in 2013, as Jimbo Fisher has made it clear he'll replace departed fullback Lonnie Pryor by using more two-tight end sets and giving O'Leary work at halfback. But if the junior is going to blossom into the star so many predicted he would become, it's less about building a highlight tape and more about doing the little things well. From dropped passes to costly fumbles, O'Leary has made a habit of making mental errors by being too focused on the big play. This season, FSU -- and freshman QB Jameis Winston, in particular -- simply need O'Leary to become an effective safety valve over the middle, and new position coach Tim Brewster will make it a priority to build that foundation. A breakout season may not be in the cards, but it's entirely possible O'Leary could double his numbers from 2012 (21 catches, 252 yards, 3 TDs) simply by doing all the little things more consistently.