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TE'S SLUMP NO CONCERN TO 'NOLES

By Brendan Sonnone

Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE - It has been a quiet couple of weeks for FSU TE Nick O'Leary.

The senior, after recording six receptions for 77 yards against Clemson, has logged two for 22 the past two games.

An integral part of FSU's offense in 2013, O'Leary has seemingly been an afterthought lately. Yet coach Jimbo Fisher said that is not necessarily the case.

"We've had a bunch of balls called to him," Fisher said of Saturday's 43-3 win against Wake Forest. "We had about seven or eight things called, and that's just the way it goes sometimes when the coverage goes that way, or reads or when you get pressure. There'll be games again where he'll catch six or eight. We had a lot of things targeted to him."

O'Leary, a finalist last season for the John Mackey Award given to the nation's top tight end after recording 33 receptions for 557 yards, is on pace to catch more passes (45) and log about as many yards (498) this year. The recent trend of Jameis Winston going away from O'Leary is perhaps a product of teams focusing on taking away the safety blanket. Rashad Greene said before last week that opponents were double-teaming him and O'Leary more frequently this year after the loss of WRs Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw.

Winston has thrown two interceptions the past two weeks when targeting O'Leary, so it's worth monitoring to see if he loses confidence going to the tight end. Fisher said that O'Leary needed to flatten out his pattern against Wake Forest on a play that resulted in a Winston interception.

Winston has targeted O'Leary on five passes combined in the past two games, but there were spurts at the beginning of last year when Winston did not frequently look O'Leary's way; there was a three-game stretch in which he had three receptions.

In fact, O'Leary has more catches and receiving yards now than he did through five games last season (11 for 132).

Unless this drought continues for the next couple of weeks, this appears to be more of an anomaly than a trend, and O'Leary's production should still be strong at the end of the year.

BACKUP QB:John Franklin III, a redshirt freshman who has been making a transition from quarterback to wide receiver, will be the backup signal caller for Saturday's game against Syracuse. Winston's usual backup, Sean Maguire, sustained a hand injury during the back end of FSU's game against Wake Forest and "may be out for a week or two," Fisher said.

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