Every year, it feels like fans are eagerly awaiting Nebraska’s tight ends to be a major factor in its offense. That anticipation is not specific to one coaching staff either. Matt Herian was going to be the tight end to get the ball rolling in Bill Callahan’s Huskers offense. Kyler Reed was going to be the next big tight end at Nebraska around 2009. After that, Cethan Carter was going to be the tight end to reach his full potential.
It never quite happened for any of those players. Two common threads between all was enormous potential and injuries. Each also missed significant time during their Husker careers.
The 2019 season seems to be the next hope that the tight ends will get involved in the offense. Redshirt junior Jack Stoll (6-4, 260) is the leader of the room and the clear starter. There are a handful of intriguing options behind him.
Austin Allen (6-8, 250) and Kurt Rafdal (6-7, 245) are both redshirt sophomores, Katerian Legrone (6-3, 245) is a redshirt freshman and Chris Hickman (6-6, 215) is a true freshman. Hickman appears headed for a redshirt after missing the spring but he still has a bright future ahead.
All of the players behind Stoll are battling more than each other. Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek (6-6, 250) joined the team this summer. However, he is expected to sit out the 2019 season. Vokolek is still practicing with the team in fall camp though.
Competition is the theme of fall camp for Nebraska—just ask offensive coordinator Troy Walters—and the tight end position is one of the toughest position groups on the team rightnow.
“It’s competition every single day we step on the field,” tight ends coach Sean Beckton said on Wednesday. “We compete in meetings and everything we do. We compete in individual drills. Maybe we can create a situation where we play with four guys on the field at the tight end spot. When I talk to those guys, they know they will all play if they are capable of playing. Right now, his [Vokolek] future is bright.”
There is a sense of urgency building within the tight end room too. None of the tight ends on the roster will graduate after this season so they will all be back for the 2020 season. You would think all that youth would keep Beckton from recruiting a tight end in the 2020 cycle, right? That would be a faulty assumption.
“We are always going to try and recruit the best player we can possibly get,” Beckton said. “With the addition of Travis [Vokolek], I’m still going to recruit tight ends. It’s the nature of what we want to do as far as the scheme of things. Coach [Scott] Frost told me to continue to look at guys there [for 2020]. I’ve pigeonholed two guys that I want to focus in on. If we have a spot for them, we will pull the trigger on those guys.”
We’ll dive into who those two prospects could be on Friday in Big Red Recon. There is a Texas tight end with an official visit on the books for Week 1.
Beckton has history of producing NFL tight ends. Of late, he coached Jordan Akins, Jordan Franks and Mike Colubiale at Central Florida. All are in NFL training camps right now. Now Beckton is recruiting bigger receivers that have the frame to grow into tight ends. Down the road he may shift to recruiting bigger tight ends. For the time being, the strategy is to go after prospects who are bigger wide receivers in high school. But in the end, Beckton is simply looking for good football players.
Right now, he has plenty to work with in his room.
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.