Tuesday night Sean Beckton sat his tight end group down and told Kurt Rafdal and Austin Allen they had closed the gap with Jack Stoll. Now, part of that was in jest towards Stoll, the top guy in the room because “I’m trying to keep him kind of grounded,” Beckton said with a smile. But part of that is Beckton having real faith in the top three guys in his tight end room.
Which means Travis Vokolek, the transfer from Rutgers, will not play this season.
“Because of the situation we’re in right now at tight end, we feel really good about it, but right now the way things are going across the country, I don’t know if it’s even worth the while to do it,” Beckton said when asked if the Huskers were applying for a waiver that would allow Vokolek to play right away. “A lot of guys right now are not getting the waiver anyway. It’s not something we’ve even really discussed.
“I’m not depending on him right now as a guy who’s going to be able to help us this year.”
Asked if the growth of Allen and Rafdal helped the decision to not pursue Vokolek’s waiver, Beckton said of course.
“Those guys have been in the program,” he said. “They know the scheme of things and those guys have really worked hard this offseason. They’ve busted their tail. They’re a lot leaner. They’re a lot faster, a lot twitchier in all their movement. We’re really excited to see where those guys go along with Jack Stoll.”
As for Vokolek, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done.
The son of a football coach — Vokolek’s dad, DJ, is the assistant head coach at Northern Iowa — Vokolek has strong instincts and a good football IQ, Beckton says, and he’s faster than he looks. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, he’s deceptively athletic and route running isn’t much of an issue right now.
The coaching staff is also pretty pleased with the way he’s come in and embraced the playbook. Guys over the last few weeks have talked at length about the need to not dip your toe in the water as a newcomer, but to dive all the way in. With an offensive playbook this diverse, that’s even more important.
And even though Vokolek knows he likely won’t contribute this season, his notebook when Beckton breaks it open is full of the sorts of details that make a coach happy.
But blocking is an area that needs work. Beckton is hoping this year off is spent working on technique as an in-line blocker.
“As big as he is, evaluating him coming in I didn’t think he was very polished as an in-line blocker,” Beckton said. “So we’ve really focused in on him being more of a technician as far as hand placement, footwork, stepping with the proper footwork. You see him after practice trying to work on those individual techniques.”
Where are his eyes when he’s coming to strike a defender? What’s his footwork like? Is he striking the right way?
“All those small detail things he didn’t have a major knowledge of and we’re really trying to harp on that with him,” Beckton said.
And none of that is to say Vokolek isn’t what the coaching staff thought he was when they recruited him. He hasn’t underwhelmed. He just has three years to play two and Nebraska is using the first year to get him caught up to speed on how they do things.
The potential is still exciting.
“He’s going to be a dude next year,” Allen said of his teammate. “He’s going to be a great addition to us next year. Having him as competition in fall camp is awesome because he looks like a Big Ten tight end. That’s what the defense is going to get and that’s what they’re going to see, so it’s awesome that they brought him in to fall camp.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.