Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Shorthanded Position Groups Still Impress, Look to Grow After Spring Game

April 09, 2022

At the culmination of spring football, Nebraska saw its depth issues were severe enough to warrant a change in the format for the Red-White Spring Game.

Instead of splitting into two full teams like things have been the past few years, one side was only defense and the other only offense. 

One of the positions that necessitated this change was the tight end spot. Nebraska’s three most experienced returning tight ends — Travis Vokolek, Chris Hickman and Chancellor Brewington — weren’t available. Redshirt freshman Thomas Fidone also was unavailable after suffering another injury this spring. 

Instead, players like AJ Rollins, Nate Boerkircher and John Goodwin made the highlight plays at the position. 

“It’s weird being a coach, every year there’s one position it seems you get bit by the injury bug and that was kind of our position this spring,” head coach Scott Frost said after the scrimmage. “That’s kind of one of the reasons we had to go offense verse defense.” 

Frost was still happy with the showing from the group. Rollins had a team-leading four catches for 39 yards. Boerkircher had two catches for 21 yards and Goodwin’s only grab went for 33 yards. Evan Meyersick and James Carnie also got in on the pass-catching action. 

In all, 10 of the 24 completions went to tight ends, equal to the amount of wide receiver receptions. Boerkircher credited their ability to step up to the contributions of position coach Sean Beckton and the involvement of the players that weren’t available. 

“It’s never great when guys go down. And we had a lot of injuries, a lot of experienced guys go down and the good thing about that is that they are experienced and they kind of helped coach the young guys,” Boerkircher said. “And Beck’s a great coach and that led to an opportunity for me and then a lot of the other guys. And I think we all took a pretty big step this spring.”

Boerkircher caught the first pass of the spring game, an opportunity to shine that he hasn’t truly been able to get in his two years with the Huskers. He said he’s going to continue to work and isn’t worried about issues arising when his teammates return from injury, citing the group’s close relationship with each other.

“We’re all a really tight group,” he said. “We’re all friends, and Beck’s a great coach and he’s gonna get us all right.” 

The front seven is another group that has been noted as thin currently. That hasn’t only been a result of injuries, but it’s something the group has had to manage throughout spring practices. 

“We only have like eight interior guys. So you’re getting a lot of reps each practice,” defensive lineman Colton Feist said. “So I think it was big for us to all stay healthy, which we all have nicks and stuff, but we all stayed pretty healthy and could play in this game so I think that was good.”

That could be something to watch as things move forward. Frost noted the lack of “bodies” at the outside linebacker position, although he was impressed with the performances of Garrett Nelson and others who played today. 

Frost was non-committal when asked about adding players from the transfer portal to the front seven specifically. However, he did mention an interest in general additions.

“We’re going to look to add pieces if the right ones are available at whatever position,” Frost said. “There’s certainly some that we think we could use another body and we’ll pay more attention to those positions.”

While he’s confident in the group they currently have, Feist said he’d be open to any new faces as well. 

“You just got to go out there and do your best every day and hopefully, you’ll still be able to play,” Feist said. “I’m hoping if we can get some guys to get us better, it will make us all better as a whole.”

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap