I haven’t yet had a chance to partake in one of my favorite preview series that we do for Notre Dame football. While Bayou Irish has been absolutely killing it with that series, I asked if I could sneak in before the buzzer to get a post in. Thankfully, he agreed and I’m happy to throw out my picks for the top tight ends you will see this season on both the Irish and opposing sideline.
THE IRISH: Ben Koyack, Senior, 6’5″, 254 lbs
These days, Notre Dame is most certainly “Tight End U”. The Macky Award watch lists practically pencil in the starting TE at ND at this point.
Used mostly in two TE sets, Koyack’s stats from last year won’t set the world on fire (10 receptions, 171 yards, 3 TDs), but the same could have been said of Troy Niklas last season. After Niklas served as the #2 TE on the depth chart, he turned a pedestrian 2012 into a fantastic 2013 and an early exit into the NFL draft and a second round selection.
I see no reason for that trend to stop here. Koyack has all the physical attributes of a strong, physical TE and now that he’s the main focus, I expect his numbers to make a huge jump, especially with Golson back at QB.
Many draft analysts have him as one of the top draft eligible TEs in the country, including Phil Steele who ranks him as #2 at the position.
THE ENEMY: Nick O’Leary, Florida State, Senior, 6’3″, 244 lbs
In my preview of Florida State, I mentioned that the Seminoles would be returning quite a few offensive weapons. While, I didn’t mention him by name there, Nick O’Leary should certainly be in that conversation.
While he isn’t the biggest TE you will see line up, that doesn’t mean this kid doesn’t have some serious trucking power:
Phil Steele has O’Leary ranked above Koyack as the #1 draft eligible TE prospect and for good reason. On a team full of weapons last season, O’Leary had 33 receptions for 557 yards (16.9 yards per reception) and 7 TDs, including a 94 yarder against Clemson. By the way, that was practically double the production he put out in 2012.
Even though Rashad Greene, the WR threatening FSU’s all-time receiving record, returns, Florida State loses two other WRs that were their second and third leading receivers last season. That opens the door for O’Leary’s production to increase once again in 2014 and Florida State observers believe so as well.
As a final random fact, you will probably recognize his grandfather.