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With stress and fear gone, Husker tight end Allen feels ready to attack as receiver and blocker
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With stress and fear gone, Husker tight end Allen feels ready to attack as receiver and blocker


No stress. No fear.

Nebraska sophomore tight end Austin Allen says he feels neither of those negative emotions this month during the Huskers' preseason camp, a sharp contrast to last year at this time.

"I feel like I'm ready," Allen said this week. "Last year, there were a lot of times when there were stressful situations where I was like, 'Oh, gosh, what do I do? I have to know what I have to do right now.'"

Nebraska on Friday wrapped up its seventh preseason practice.

"This fall camp, there's no stress," said Allen, tipping his cap to Husker head strength coach Zach Duval. "Duval got us right this summer. We worked even harder than we did last summer."

In addition to his improved physical conditioning, Allen better understands the offense in his second go-round in head coach Scott Frost's fast-paced spread attack.

"So we're going to come out there now and just know what we've got to do," Allen said. "We can dial in on our technique. That's really helped me just have no fear out there." 

His position coach, Sean Beckton, said last month that he didn’t think Allen and fellow sophomore Kurt Rafdal were physically ready to play in the Big Ten last year, but that they’ve both made big gains this offseason.

That obviously could translate into more receptions. Allen had just two last season, while Rafdal had four.

"I've made a lot of (strength) gains," said the 6-foot-8 Allen, who was a basketball and football star at Aurora High School. "My body fat percentage went down a couple points and I turned that into muscle. I was up to a little over 250 pounds (this summer). They want me at about 265. I'm getting there. I've obviously lost a little weight in fall camp. But I'm gaining that back now."

Beckton's group is led by 6-4, 260-pound junior Jack Stoll, who started every game last season and finished with 21 receptions for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Allen and Rafdal (6-7, 245) are a quarterback's dream in terms of their expansive catch radius. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Katerian LeGrone (6-3, 245) has been working hard to learn more of the intricate details of the offense, the coach said.

Beckton also is excited about the arrival of Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek, a 6-7, 265-pounder who will sit out the 2019 season per NCAA transfer rules and then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2020. He saw the field for the Scarlet Knights as a true freshman in 2017 and as a sophomore last year, compiling a total of 16 catches for 184 yards and hauling in two of Rutgers’ five passing touchdowns in 2018.

Vokolek is participating in Nebraska's preseason camp this month.

"There's competition every single day we step on the field," Beckton said this week. "We compete in meetings. We compete in individual drills. We compete in everything we do. (Vokolek's presence) is just going to add to the value of the whole overall scheme of what we're trying to do with the tight ends, and maybe create the situation where we can play with four guys on the field at the tight end spot.

"When I talk to those guys, they know that they're all going to play if they're capable of playing."

Said Allen: "We're seeing a lot more two-tight-end sets, and I'm loving that out of Frost."

Regarded as a high-priority recruit in the class of 2017 by former Nebraska head coach Mike Riley's staff, Allen sat out his first season on campus as a redshirt. A two-way football standout at Aurora, he also was offered scholarships by Iowa State, Iowa and Central Florida, and UCLA was interested.

It's easy to understand why.

"It's hard to teach a kid to get open," Kyle Peterson, Aurora's football coach, said in April 2016. "You can do all the drills, but it can take years to develop. He just does it naturally. He's applied what he learned in basketball."

Allen also has learned to attack defensive linemen more forcefully, he said.

"Last year I found myself stepping off the line before engaging defenders," he said. "Now I'm going to strike you and get in my fits and I'm going to drive you and get in my fits."

That's right, no fear.

"You have to bring physicality on each and every play whether you have to flick off an outside linebacker who's trying to reroute you or whether it's an inside-zone (run), where you have to come off the ball and strike him," Allen said. "They're bringing the same physicality every play, and we have to bring that right back to him."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


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