2013 Preseason Award Projections: Mackey Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 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 2014 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason 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:

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

I predicted last year that Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert would win the Mackey Award and that prediction came true. It wasn’t much of a stretch to pick Eifert, and selecting Austin Seferian-Jenkins is even less bold. He is by far the top tight end currently in college football.

The only issue, heading into fall camp, that could prevent Seferian-Jenkins from dominating is if he is suspended for his DUI arrest from the spring. The Huskies have said that Seferian-Jenkins has started the process to being reinstated to the team. Considering the junior is the best player in the program, it would be surprising if he missed a significant amount of games.

When Seferian-Jenkins stepped onto campus, he made an immediate impact for the Huskies. The freshman totaled 41 receptions for 538 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. Last season was a disappointing year for quarterback Keith Price, but Seferian-Jenkins was able to increase his production. The sophomore caught 69 passes for 852 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 6-foot-6, 266-pound Seferian-Jenkins is the complete package. He is a rare athlete with outstanding combination of size, speed, hands, route-running and body control. Seferian-Jenkins is a matchup nightmare as a receiver. He is too quick for linebackers to cover in man coverage and too big for defensive backs. Seferian-Jenkins has a burst off the line and excellent straight-line speed to burn defenses down the middle seam. He uses his size and strength to box out defenders for the ball.

Assuming that Seferian-Jenkins misses only a game or two because of suspension, he should have a massive season and be the top tight end in college football.

Mackey Runner-Up:

Colt Lyerla, Oregon

Lyerla is an athletic tight end who is a nice weapon in the Ducks’ offensive arsenal. He is extremely explosive as a receiver and his speed takes defenses by surprise. Lyerla would’ve more achievements in most programs, but Oregon has had so many other weapons to spread the ball around to. Since the Ducks have lost LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in back-to-back offseasons, the tean could throw the ball more in 2013 with Lyerla getting more opportunities.

Lyerla caught 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns last year. The sophomore also ran the ball as a power back and totaled 77 yards on 13 carries. He was a real red-zone weapon in 2011 with five touchdowns despite only seven receptions for 147 yards.

The 6-foot-5, 246-pounder is one of the most athletic tight ends in the nation and should be a force in the Pac 12. However, Lyerla probably won’t see enough opportunities to beat out Seferian-Jenkins for the Mackey Award.

Mackey Dark Horse:

Eric Ebron, North Carolina

Ebron has a great skill set with size, speed and strength. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder was the Tar Heels’ second leading receiver with 40 receptions for 625 yards and four touchdowns. He was a dangerous receiver for Bryn Renner.

North Carolina was thin at defensive end in 2012 and Ebron played some as a defensive end. All he pretty much did was try speed rushes to get disruption upfield, but it was impressive that he was able to get some pass pressures.

Ebron is very fast running through the secondary and is excellent attacking the middle of the field on slants and seam routes. He operates well as a slot receiver. Ebron needs to work on his hands and route-running, but he has great potential.

Plus, Ebron flashes some impressive blocking potential. There are times when he rocks defenders and gets them on roller skates. There are other times where Ebron misses or doesn’t finish blocks. The junior needs to improve his ability to sustain his blocks this season. Ebron just needs to get more consistent, but he has the talent to get consideration for the Mackey Award with Seferian-Jenkins and Lyerla.

Honorable Mentions: USC tight end Xavier Grimble, USC tight end Randall Telfer, Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pederson, Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary, Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch, BYU tight end Kaneakua Friel, Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle and North Carolina State tight end Asa Watson.

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