In 2011, Nick O’Leary came to the Florida State Seminoles with all the hype that comes with being the no. 1-rated tight end in the country. After a long and arduous recruiting process, the Noles landed the prized recruit and had visions of how much he could help an offense in desperate need of a viable weapon at tight end.
Thus far, those visions haven’t materialized and O’Leary, though solid, has been unspectacular in garnet and gold.
After struggling to earn playing time as a freshman, O’Leary earned the starting job heading into his sophomore season. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he’s big enough to block on the perimeter in the run game, and agile enough to be a match-up nightmare operating against linebackers.
However, the 2012 season was very disappointing from a production standpoint. O’Leary managed a meager 21 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns — not exactly what Seminoles fans had expected while they celebrated his signing two years earlier.
So, heading into this season, O’Leary is looking to fulfill his promise. With the departure of fullback Lonnie Pryor, head coach Jimbo Fisher will likely have to utilize O’Leary in a new capacity. Expect to see him line up in the backfield as a blocking back, or on the perimeter as more of an H-back at times. With his skill set and athleticism, there’s no reason he can’t be a player that Fisher designs plays for.
In addition, O’Leary will be working with a new quarterback for the Seminoles. E.J. Manuel has moved on to the next level, opening the door for young Jameis Winston. The freshman had a phenomenal spring, despite the fact that he was also playing baseball for the Seminoles baseball team at the same time.
His presence in the Florida State huddle could be a boost for the junior O’Leary. In general, young quarterbacks like to have easy check-down throws that they know they can go to against a blitz or as the pocket breaks down. A reliable tight end can be invaluable to an experienced signal caller. Winston appears to have great poise, but every QB needs a security blanket, and O’Leary could be just that for Winston.
2013 is really a make-or-break year for O’Leary as a Seminole. Some of the excitement about his future has died down after two below-average seasons in Tallahassee, leaving many Seminole fans to wonder if he’s ever going to pan out.
Will he emerge as the dominant intermediate passing threat so many thought he could be? Or will his claim to fame always be that he is the grandson of Jack Nicklaus?
B.L. is a college football writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @coachlip.