NoleGameday

2016 Spring Preview: Tight Ends

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Bold indicates a returning starter

In 2015, Florida State entered the season with questions at the tight end position. Nick O’Leary, perhaps the best tight end in program history, departed for the NFL and Kevin Haplea, a reliable blocker, graduated as well. With those two gone, Florida State had to rely on underclassmen stepping up to fill the big shoes of the departed seniors. One year later and, from all indications, there is a bright future for the tight end position in Tallahassee.

The emergence of Ryan Izzo (#81) at tight end was important for the offense in 2015. At 6-5, 241 lbs., he has great size and displayed a great aptitude for catching the ball (14-210-2). Another factor that solidified his starting role was his willingness in the run game. Although as a freshman he struggled at times at blocking, there was a clear progression throughout the season, which is an encouraging sign heading forward. Izzo started all 13 games in 2015 and is considered a solid starter at tight end heading into 2016.

A fellow redshirt sophomore, Mavin Saunders (#88) has perhaps the highest ceiling out of any receiver on Florida State’s roster. He is a former basketball player and has great size (6-6, 248 lbs.) and athleticism. However, 2015 was a rough year for Saunders as he continued to learn the tight end position. He finished with 6 catches for 52 yards, but had some ugly drops as well. Fortunately, Saunders is only a redshirt sophomore and still has years to learn the position. If Saunders can fully grasp the blocking scheme and learn to catch the ball, 2016 could be a breakout year for the athletic tight end.

Perhaps the unsung hero of 2015 was Jeremy Kerr (#85), who stepped in to fill Kevin Haplea’s role as the blocking tight end in Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Kerr, a redshirt junior, is the best blocker of all the tight ends at 6-6, 266 lbs., but also proved in the Florida game that he has some nice hands as well. Kerr’s role in the offense will likely be limited to strictly a blocking tight end and his development as a pass catcher could be an interesting development heading into 2016.

Florida State signed Jalen Wilkerson (#84) last year and he redshirted in his first year on campus. With the trio of tight ends above him on the depth chart, it is unlikely that Wilkerson sees the field for major snaps in 2016, but he could see some snaps as the second team tight end in blowouts.

The Seminoles currently have one tight end committed in Naseir Upshur (#TBA) and will likely only sign a single tight end in this class. An Under Armour All-American, Upshur catches the ball well and plays larger than his size indicates (6-2, 233 lbs.). With a plethora of talent above him on the roster, it is likely that Upshur will redshirt in his first year at Florida State.

The future at tight end is bright at Florida State. Two redshirt sophomores in Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders have high ceilings and Jeremy Kerr has firmly established himself as a solid blocking option. With five tight ends on the roster next season, Florida State will have great depth at the position and has put itself in a great position if injuries do arise.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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