TE O'Leary keeps it down the middle

Twelve catches as a freshman were enough to earn Nick O'Leary a bit of recognition on his own right, but the questions invariably come back to his famous grandfather, legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.

At the annual ACC Football Kickoff last week, EJ Manuel's glowing reports on O'Leary inevitably concluded with the question: Has Manuel's tight end set up a phone call with Nicklaus yet?

"Not yet," Manuel laughed. "But if he did call me, I'd be extremely happy. That'd be sweet."

Manuel may have been a bit star-struck by the thought, but there's little doubt which member of the family has the FSU quarterback the most excited.

O'Leary started just two games last season, yet quickly established himself as a legitimate target in the passing game with 164 yards and a touchdown.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, Manuel insists. O'Leary has spent the summer winning the confidence of his quarterback, despite a deep cast of receivers around him.

"In 7-on-7, we linked up thousands of times," Manuel said. "Every time he's been matched up against linebackers and safeties, he's giving them the business. The guy gets open every single time."

Manuel might only be slightly exaggerating the details.

The role of the wide receivers, as Jimbo Fisher sees it, is to make big plays down the field. Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and company will be tasked with getting open along the sidelines and picking up big chunks of yardage.

"What we've got to have out there now is guys that change the game," Fisher said. "Those guys out there changing numbers on the scoreboard, making big plays."

While the speedsters are making those big plays deep, the middle of the field becomes a playground for O'Leary.

Fisher raved about O'Leary's hands and understanding of how to create space, and Manuel believes that offers infinite possibilities offensively.

"Nick is a viable option every time he's on the field," Manuel said. "He's definitely a guy I want to get the ball to."

There should be no shortage of options for Manuel to do just that.

For all of O'Leary's skills as a receiver, it's may be his versatility that is his best asset.

At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, O'Leary can hold his own at the line of scrimmage, but his versatility is what makes Fisher drool at the sheer possibilities.

"You can put him in the backfield, you can put him on the line of scrimmage, you can flex him out -- he can do a lot," Fisher said.

O'Leary's practice routine often includes 50-yard drop kicks and 70-yard throws, Fisher said, so there is virtually no limit to the possibilities for the sophomore this season.

"Double-reverse tight end pass, how about that?" Fisher said. "Whatever we need."

Twelve catches earned O'Leary a niche as a freshman, but the expectations are far higher this time around.

And when the 2012 season is over, O'Leary might have taken a few steps toward reclaiming some of that attention that always managed to be directed toward his grandfather.

Of course, the pedigree has its upside, and Fisher said O'Leary's not a bad golfer either.

"Hit one about 350 yards," Fisher said. "He's just a natural athlete."