Recruiting never stops and it's easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Recruiting analyst Greg Smith recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.
Think back to the last recruiting cycle when Nebraska was pursuing then-Omaha Burke star Chris Hickman. The tight end was a matchup nightmare in the passing game in high school, impressing the Nebraska staff with his willingness to be a physical football player.
Hickman enrolled early at Nebraska but missed spring practice with an injury. That means Hickman’s progress can get lost in the shuffle of 2019 storylines. During the first week of fall camp, tight ends coach Sean Beckton was happy with the work Hickman put in over the summer.
“Me and Coach [Dustin] Haines have been really impressed,” Beckton said. “We thought he’d be further behind than we initially thought. Day 1, he’s really come in and grasped the scheme of things. Physically, he is nowhere near where we want him and he knows that. He’s working constantly to put the weight on. I’m on his tail all the time in the nutrition center making sure he’s eating enough. I’m really pleased with the potential of Chris Hickman.”
Hickman is going to be a big-time player for Nebraska down the road. The staff is excited about his potential to be that vertical stretch tight end in Coach Scott Frost’s offense. He showed that ability on Friday nights in Omaha.
It’s plays like this that helped draw schools from around the country to Hickman. Yet, it was another part of his game that sealed the deal for Beckton: Hickman’s willingness to be physical and block.
“I saw it in him when I went over and watched him play during the season this past year,” Beckton said. “I was sold then. He’s gotten better from day to day. I think he came in at like 180 pounds. Now he fluctuates between 210 and 207 depending on how hard we work him in practice. We have to get him to that next level in getting the strength behind him. There’s a lot of want to and speed there.
“Our challenge is to make sure he gets with Dave Ellis and eat, eat, eat. Make sure he’s doing the right things and putting the right things in his body. We just need him to keep growing his body.”
As we’ve discussed recently in a notebook, Beckton likes finding bigger wide receivers in high school to convert to tight ends. But, regardless if a player was a tight end or wideout in high school, there is one thing young players struggle with.
“The transition from being a tight end in the core on a running play then [playing] tight end outside of the core,” Beckton said. “They have to understand the rules as far as the blocking schemes within the core in addition to outside the core. So, the communication between the tackle, guard, center and tight end is very vital. On each signaled play there could be an adjustment based on a look we get.
“The biggest thing for our guys and one challenge we have with Chris Hickman is understanding the play. If those guys [the defense] move up front a little bit we may need to make adjustments. Being able to get them in tune there is the adjustment. On the perimeter it’s a lot easier because there is less movement. There are basic rules we try to teach. There are a lot more situations to handle when you are in the core next to the tackle.”
All in all, there are a lot of positives to be taken from Hickman’s development in the program so far. Strength and playbook understanding are things he needs to work on but most freshmen encounter those issues. It will be fun to track Hickman’s development over the next couple of seasons.
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I will not be committing Wednesday anymore 🤦🏾♂️‼️
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Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.