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Spring setup: Where do newcomers like Thomas Fidone and James Carnie fit in NU's veteran-led TE room?
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Spring setup: Where do newcomers like Thomas Fidone and James Carnie fit in NU's veteran-led TE room?

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Penn State vs. Nebraska, 11.14

Nebraska tight end Austin Allen (11) pulls in a first-quarter pass against Penn State's Jesse Luketa (40) and Keaton Ellis (2) last November at Memorial Stadium.

Steven M. Sipple and Parker Gabriel scramble a late Friday podcast to revisit the news of the day: That Nebraska considered backing out of a Sept. 18 game at Oklahoma -- AD Bill Moos said NU explored the option of playing an eighth home game because of COVID-19's steep financial toll -- but ultimately ended up where it started. The Huskers and Sooners will play this fall. That's great. The rest is less simple. 

As the March 30 start of spring football draws nearer for Nebraska, the Journal Star is taking a brief look at each position on the roster and where the Huskers stand. This week continues with Sean Beckton’s tight end group.

Monday: Offensive line

Today: Tight end

Wednesday: Running back

Thursday: Wide receiver

Friday: Quarterback

Saturday: Offensive two-deep projection

Returning scholarship players: Juniors Austin Allen, Travis Vokolek and Kurt Rafdal; redshirt freshman Chris Hickman.

New this spring: Freshmen Thomas Fidone and James Carnie.

Veteran presence: Allen, a 6-foot-8 Aurora native, is Nebraska’s leading returning receiver in both yardage (236) and catches (18) from 2020. He also leads all returning players in explosive catches last year, having hauled in five of 23 or more yards. He’ll be a candidate for captaincy and has added something to his game each year he’s been at NU.

Spring storyline

The job for Allen and Vokolek, two regulars in 2020 for the Huskers, is to continue to develop as all-around players. The Huskers liked Allen's performance in the pass game and Vokolek's work in the run game. Both are capable of more in both departments, too. 

From there, the spring is largely about determining roles. What is Hickman's moving forward? He was a package player in 2020, seeing limited time as a blocker primarily. Can he expand from there? Can NU find him a setup that allows him to tap into his strengths more consistently? 

And what about Fidone? He's the most heralded of NU's 2021 recruits and though coaches are usually reserved about projecting players before their first spring ball, the thinking is that Fidone will be in a position to contribute early. 

What might that look like? Is he an all-the-time player? Essentially a receiver to start? Something else? 

Overall, it should be a fun spring for Beckton and company as they sort through a number of quality options. 

— Parker Gabriel

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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