The John Mackey Award is given out to the nation’s most outstanding tight end. The preseason watch list was announced late last week and included San Diego State’s junior Daniel Bellinger. There were only two other Mountain West athletes selected, Boise State’s John Bates and Colorado State’s Trey McBride.
Unlike many of the other players on the watch list, Daniel makes it almost entirely on projection. 2019 was his only season with real playing time, reeling in 15 receptions for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. He split time with senior Parker Houston who received the lion's share of the targets a year ago. With Houston graduating, Bellinger will be receiving nearly all the tight end targets in 2020 and will look to do damage with each one. The QB race is wide open between sophomore Carson Baker and Georgia Tech transfer Lucas Johnson, but whoever wins the competition will have the talented tight end to throw to.
Due to the Aztecs offensive scheme, which is extremely run-heavy, defenses often stack the box and play man-to-man on the outside. This gives Bellinger free reign to attack the middle of the field and pick up yardage. His 6’6” and 250-pound frame make him a rather large target for his QB to hit downfield. What he lacks in after the catch ability, he makes up for in strong hands and disciplined play, being called for just one penalty last season.
Since its inception back in 2000, no Mountain West player has received the Mackey Award. In fact, only one Group of Five member has ever hoisted the trophy, the one being FAU’s Harrison Bryant just last season. Bryant recorded 1,004 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns , both led all tight ends in the FBS. Bellinger is limited by the play of his quarterback, a position where SDSU has struggled to produce exceptional talent at. Despite that, he has the frame and athleticism to post monstrous numbers if given the requisite number of targets.
The John Mackey Award semifinalists will be announced on November 18th and the final three will be named on November 25th. The ultimate recipient will be honored during the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on December 10th.