2015 Preseason Award Projections: Mackey Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2015 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 the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next May for the 2016 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. Last year our prediction was Florida State’s Nick O’Leary winning the Mackey Award and he ended up bringing home the honor. That was the third year in a row we correctly predicted the Mackey Award winner after getting it wright with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Tyler Eifert before O’Leary made it three straight.

Mackey Award Winner:

Hunter Henry, Arkansas

The Mackey Award favors tight ends who are more than just blockers or receivers. The award committee likes the winner to be effective in both aspects of tight end play. With that in mind, Henry makes a lot of sense as the favorite to win the Mackey Award.

The Razorbacks feature perhaps the most well-rounded and complete tight end in the nation with Henry. He is a quality run-blocker and a weapon as a receiver. In 2014, Henry caught 37 passes for 513 yards and two scores. He also made an impact as a freshman with 28 catches for 409 yards and four scores. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder will be valuable as a run-blocker, and with the Razorbacks not having an elite receiver, he should be relied on in the passing game as well. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Henry is the winner of the Mackey Award this season.

Mackey Runner-Up:

O.J. Howard, Alabama

Howard flashed big-time potential as a freshman in 2013, hauling in 14 passes for 269 yards (19.2 average) with two touchdowns. He seemed to be just scratching the surface of his potential. However, his sophomore year didn’t go as planned because offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin went overboard with plays for Amari Cooper. Add in the running game, and Howard didn’t get a big opportunity to produce (17-260). Still, Howard is fast and has the frame to add size. He already is a dangerous receiving weapon who presents a lot of mismatch problems.

The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Howard should take on a bigger role in the Alabama offense in 2015. He could be a reliable receiver for the Crimson Tide’s new quarterback, but he needs to improve his blocking and route-running. Thus, I think Howard will be a runner-up to Henry.

Mackey Dark Horse:

Evan Engram, Ole Miss

The Rebels have gotten a lot of big plays out of Engram over the past two years. He is a dynamic receiver and mismatch weapon. Engram had 38 receptions for 662 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder needs to get bigger and be a better blocker. That keeps him more of a dark horse for the Mackey Award.

Honorable Mentions: Penn State’s Kyle Carter, Arkansas State’s Darion Griswold, Ohio State’s Nick Vannett, Oregon’s Johnny Mundt, Duke’s Braxton Deaver, Baylor’s TreVon Armstead and San Jose State’s Billy Freeman.

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