LINCOLN — Through all the turnover in Scott Frost’s offensive staff this offseason, one remained constant — tight ends coach Sean Beckton.
Now entering his fifth season with the program, Beckton has his hands full replacing former tight end and current NFL draft prospect Austin Allen.
Leading the charge is senior Travis Vokolek. In the tight ends meeting on Monday morning, Beckton made it clear to the group that Vokolek is the starter.
This spring is all about seeing who will be “the guy” to step up behind Vokolek. And it’s anyone’s guess.
“I’m still looking for a guy that’s going to be the guy right now,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re on scholarship or not.”
One of the players expected to be a significant contributor is redshirt freshman Thomas Fidone. The top recruit in Nebraska’s 2021 class injured his knee last spring and missed all but one game.
“He’s pretty much back,” Beckton said.
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The goal for Fidone, Beckton said, is to continue to improve as a pass-catcher, much like Allen did in his time with the Huskers. For Fidone to get to that point, Beckton wants him to work on “not playing like a robot.”
“We got a lot to build on,” Beckton said. “I am encouraged by what I saw today.”
Vokolek noted on Monday that Fidone’s development is coming along nicely.
“He’s going to continue to develop, and he’s going to be a great player for us,” Vokolek said.
Another tight end looking to impact the Huskers is sophomore Chris Hickman. Hickman, a receiving tight end, is starting to see that he needs to take a bigger role — both as a player and a leader — in the room, especially with Vokolek out for spring, Beckton said.
But it’s not just Hickman who is stepping up. All the tight ends have been more vocal this spring, something Beckton likes to see and hear.
“I heard (Chancellor) Brewington today more than I’ve ever heard him since he’s been in our group,” he said.
Much of this can be credited to Vokolek. He’s become something of a second coach for the tight ends, and Beckton feels he’s following a similar trend to tight ends of the past, such as Jack Stoll and Allen.
“It’s been beautiful for me,” Beckton said of Vokolek’s leadership. “Travis is kind of naturally taking it over.”
This is something Vokolek has been working on in addition to his craft.
“Just trying to be the best leader on offense and in the tight end room,” Vokolek said earlier this week.
No matter who comes out on top after the spring season, Beckton wants the group to be more confident in what they do. Mark Whipple’s offense regularly features two tight-end sets, so having a solid understanding of the offense is critical.
“I want to see those guys play with a little bit more confidence,” he said. “Last year, I thought they were kind of feeling their way through the offense. I want those guys to be able to react to things. Don’t play like robots. That’s going to come with reps.”
Vokolek and the rest of the tight ends have spent a lot of time around one another, working to improve — both in the weight room and film room. Now he’s ready to see what comes of that.
“I’m really excited that we have guys in that room who are really good to be around,” he said. “It should be fun with them.”
Video: First day of Nebraska spring football
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Nick Henrich: ‘it’s going to be a fun, it’s a fun spring’
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Mickey Joseph: ‘I gotta find nine that are able to go’
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Erik Chinander on players coaching the newer guys ‘it’s kind of cool to see’
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