(UHND.com) – Notre Dame senior tight end John Carlson was named a finalist for the Mackey Award as one of the nation’s top tight ends Thursday afternoon along with Arizona State’s Zach Miller and Minnesota’s Matt Spaeth. Carlson caught 46 passes for 621 yards and four touchdowns in his first season as a starter despite missing the final two and a half games due to injury.
Carlson became a legit vertical threat for Notre Dame this season from the tight end position after taking over for Anthony Fasano this year. Some wondered if Carlson could replace Fasano’s production in his first year as the starter. Despite missing all of the Army and USC games with an injury and half of the Air Force game, Carlson had only 1 less catch than Fasano did a year ago and actually piled up 45 more yards and two more touchdowns.
This season Carlson showed he could make difficult catches and that he could do something with the ball in his hands after the catch. Against Michigan State, Carlson recorded the longest reception of the season for Notre Dame with a 62 yard touchdown to put the Irish back in the game.
Carlson suffered an injury in the Air Force game which ended his regular season, but Weis has said that he will be back in time for the bowl game which will be a welcomed sight for Irish fans. Carlson adds another dimension to the Notre Dame passing game because of his play making ability from the tight end position.
The AP release for the Mackey Award finalists lists Carlson as a junior, but like last year when many publications said Anthony Fasano left after his “junior” year, Carlson is indeed a senior. He does have an extra year of eligibility remaining, but it is unsure whether or not he will return.
Right now, Carlson is an outstanding receiving right end who will need to work on his blocking a bit more for the next level. While Fasano did not have Carlson’s speed last year, he was a more complete tight end in terms of being able to block and catch.
It’s tough to predict where Carlson might project in the draft at this point. Fasano was a second round pick last year, but Fasano was a more complete tight end at the end of his senior year than Carlson is right now. Fasano has a definite edge over Carlson at this point in their careers in terms of blocking, but Carlson’s speed could be enough for teams to overlook the work Carlson needs in the blocking department.
NFL teams love big, fast tight ends, and Carlson definitely fits that mold so it will be interesting to see what he does once the season is over.
Joining Carlson as finalists are Zach Miller and Matt Spaeth. Miller caught 49 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns for the Sun Devils this year while Spaeth has caught 47 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns. So, even though Carlson missed a fair amount of time due to injury, he caught as many touchdowns as the other finalists while piling up more yards than both.
The winner will be announced December 7 during the ESPN College Football Awards show.
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