2014 Preseason Award Projections: Mackey Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2015 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the post-season awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Mackey Award is given to the top tight end in college football.

Mackey Award Winner:

Nick O’Leary, Florida State

Two years ago, I predicted that Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert would win the Mackey Award and that prediction came true. After picking Austin Seferian-Jenkins last summer, I’ve nailed two in a row. I feel that I got lucky there because Eric Ebron of North Carolina should have won the Mackey Award in my opinion, but I’ll take it.

This year, I think O’Leary is going to bring home the hardware. The Seminoles have made good use of him the past few seasons. He’s a mismatch receiver who also can play some h-back. In 2013, O’Leary notched 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. Florida State spread the ball around, but O’Leary had the capacity to produce more.

O’Leary should end up with more opportunities this season. Florida State lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the 2014 NFL Draft and will need more receivers to step up. O’Leary works well with Jameis Winston, and as the defending National Champs, the Seminoles will be in the spotlight all year. O’Leary should be one of Winston’s most trusted and targeted receivers this season. Thus, I think O’Leary will win the Mackey Award.

Mackey Runner-Up:

O.J. Howard, Alabama

Howard flashed big-time potential last year. The freshman hauled in 14 passes for 269 yards (19.2 average) with two touchdowns. Howard is fast and has the frame to add size. He already is a dangerous receiving weapon who presents a lot of mismatch problems. Howard was just scratching the surface of his potential.

The 6-foot-6, 237-pounder should take on a bigger role in the Alabama offense. He could be a reliable receiver for the Crimson Tide’s new quarterback. Howard should have big 2014 and 2015 seasons if he stays healthy. Howard should take on a bigger role as a sophomore and junior.

Mackey Dark Horse:

Johnny Mundt, Oregon

Colt Lyerla quit the Ducks program during the 2013 season, but Oregon moved along without missing a beat because Mundt could make an immediate impact. He demonstrated good speed and athleticism to exploit the middle of the field. The freshman caught 16 passes for 281 yards (17.6 average) with three touchdowns. With the Ducks’ ground attack to go with star quarterback Marcus Mariota, Mundt should have a big 2014 season.

The 6-foot-4, 252-pound Mundt has a ton of upside and will only get better with more experience. The sophomore is fast tight end who can make big plays down the middle seam of the defense. With the Ducks losing Josh Huff to the NFL, Mundt should see more targets in 2014.

Honorable Mentions: South Carolina’s Rory Anderson, Miami’s Clive Walford, Rutgers’ Tyler Kroft, Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs, Duke’s Braxton Deaver, USC’s Randall Telfer, Penn State’s Kyle Carter, Notre Dame’s Ben Koyack and Ole Miss’ Evan Engram.

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