The only position with a looming question mark on Nebraska’s offense will have a true freshman prominently in the mix this season.
And that’s just fine with one of the Huskers’ senior captains.
“He caught my eye early in the summer, just how fast and how well he was catching the ball,” quarterback Taylor Martinez said of tight end Cethan Carter. “He picked up the plays very well, and I think he has a knack for the game and how to get open.”
We’ll find out Saturday.
Nebraska assistant coach Barney Cotton, who coaches the tight ends, said the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Carter will play in the Huskers’ season opener against Wyoming on Saturday.
“He’s got good instincts in the passing game,” Cotton said. “He can stand, he can separate, and he can get deep.”
The next step is blocking, although Cotton said Carter has improved in that area, and isn’t afraid of contact; he played tight end, H-back and fullback for Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, La.
Still, blocking Big Ten-level defenders requires more than a couple of quick, simple steps, so work remains.
“Little by little,” Cotton said, “he’s become a much better blocker than he was at the beginning of camp.”
Nebraska loses tight ends Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, and was hit by injury in August at the position, putting even a bigger spotlight on Carter.
Senior Jake Long just returned 100 percent this week from injury, and redshirt freshman Sam Cotton has been sidelined with first a hamstring injury, then an ankle injury, and isn’t expected to play Saturday.
Long will start, and Carter and sophomore David Sutton are among those who will likely see action.
“I think we’ve shown we’ve got a lot of guys who can play ball,” Long said. “We’ve got some young playmakers, and guys are starting to figure things out. We get more and more in the game plan, get more and more fine-tuned, get those details fixed.”
Long, who’s played in 30 career games, has seven career receptions, including six last season. Barney Cotton described him as a hybrid of Ben Cotton’s physicality and Kyler Reed’s route running.
“We can play him detached because he’s got good speed, he’s got good hands, he can run good routes, but yet he’s got some pop,” Barney Cotton said. “He’s a physical guy, too.”
Long could play either the "Y" position, which is the main tight end spot, or the "A" position, which is more of a wing or backside tight end.
As for Carter, he’s concentrating solely on the "Y"position.
“With young guys, you’d like to have them learn one thing before they have to learn both,” Cotton said.
Long said Carter reminds him of Reed’s style of play, complete with strong hands and ball skills.
“From watching him this summer,” Long said, “you could just tell he’s a young guy who’s already got a knack for running routes and knows how to do it.”
Between Carter’s potential and Long’s experience, that’s enough to ease the quarterback’s concerns at tight end, if he had any to begin with.
“From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there’s a drop-off at all,” Martinez said. “I think the next guys come in, and I trust Coach Bo (Pelini) and whoever they bring in. I’m just happy Cethan came to us and hope they do a great job for us.”
Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.