The Nebraska coaching staff has been complimentary of freshman tight end Chris Hickman. Hickman had a good summer in the strength and conditioning program despite missing spring practice, and has impressed in fall camp since Day 1. That’s what tight ends coach Sean Beckton told the media on Wednesday, specifically noting that Hickman has come in and grasped Nebraska’s schemes.
Three days before the season opener against South Alabama, the Omaha native has worked into the game day conversation. Beckton will go into the game with Jack Stoll, Austin Allen, Kurt Rafdal and Chris Hickman as part of the game plan. That could vary week-to-week going forward.
Regardless of what happens each week, Hickman’s rise from when he first arrived on campus has been impressive.
“I’m not concerned with him being able to get out there and perform,” Beckton said on Wednesday. “What he’s shown us as a staff through training camp, he deserves to be on the football field in the first game. Obviously, he is limited a little bit in terms of his physique and weight but he’s tenacious. He understands the game plan so far. We have a couple more days to hone it up for him.
“Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him out there early in the game. It depends on how the game is going. I have confidence in all the guys in that room to go out and perform based on the way they’ve prepared themselves in practice and camp”
Hickman’s progress doesn’t completely surprise Beckton. There were some physical and technique issues when he first evaluated Hickman on film and live, but that is not uncommon for young players. Hickman’s work ethic and love of the game still shines through.
“He’s really a football junkie,” Beckton said. “He’s a kid that really pays attention. He sits in the back in the tight end room but if you check his notebook it’s filled with information. If there is something shady that he doesn’t quite understand, he will make sure to get the exact answer for it. You can see it in his notebook. I check his notebook. He is very detailed with it.”
When asked to list Hickman’s strength’s, Beckton immediately spoke about his speed. Hickman gives the Huskers a dynamic threat from the tight end position. That’s the type of player we all saw at Omaha Burke over the years.
Because speed is the first thing you think of with Hickman, that also doesn’t mean he is playing a hybrid role currently. That’s where his determination comes into play.
“Right now, he’s played in-line for us,” Beckton said. “He’s competed against 300-pounders. He’s gotten outmatched but he’s not scared. He doesn’t hesitate to come off and strike guys. Physically he’s just limited a little bit right now. I’m not scared to play him in that role though in-line because he makes up for it with his tenacity.
“He will fight you every single play. Yesterday, he ran down field and drove a defensive back 10 yards back. Coach [Scott] Frost looked at me and said, ‘This kid’s going to be all right.’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ I’m excited how his progress has gone so far.”
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.