Travis Vokolek’s long wait is nearly over.
The last time the Nebraska junior tight end played in a football game that counted, he hauled in four catches for a career-best 69 yards and a touchdown for Rutgers against Michigan State.
That was Nov. 24, 2018. On Saturday, 23 months to the day later, he will finally be back in action. This time, it will be as a member of the Cornhuskers’ veteran tight end group.
“It means a lot to finally be able to get out there with the guys and take on Ohio State,” Vokolek said Tuesday.
The Springfield, Missouri, native chatted with reporters for the first time since he signed with NU last summer. When he first verbally committed to the Huskers over Iowa and others, he said he wanted to be recruited by Nebraska out of high school, but wasn’t and eventually signed with the Scarlet Knights.
Now he’s got a chance to make an impact in Lincoln even though NU has senior Jack Stoll and fellow juniors Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal back, too.
“We’re expecting him to come in and be a dominant force in the run game and a dominant force in the pass game, just like Jack Stoll and Austin Allen performed last year,” tight ends coach Sean Beckton said earlier this month.
Vokolek is listed at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds and was known previously as mostly a receiving threat at the position, which the Huskers have been looking for more of essentially since Scott Frost took over the program.
“When I first got here, knowing I was going to have to sit out, one of my goals was to really learn a lot over that year and not waste that year on the scout team,” he said. “So I was still doing the drills, footwork and stuff, really working on blocking and then route running as well. I think I’ve learned a lot over the last year and gained a lot from it.”
He’s made strides in other areas too, though, notably in the blocking department. Stoll last week said Vokolek has become “a hell of a blocker.”
“I think I’ve improved a great amount,” Vokolek said. “Coach (Sean Beckton) has done a great job, (offensive graduate assistant Steve) DeMeo, with our footwork and our technique. I think we’ve improved a lot over the past year when I first got here.
“It’s all technique. It’s all about footwork and hands and then driving.”
Vokolek’s last game action included a 27-yard touchdown in which he lined up No. 1 to the field side — more like an outside receiver than a tight end — and ran a post, reaching out and hauling in a touchdown in traffic. He said Tuesday he’s hoping NU’s tight ends, three of whom are 6-6 or taller, will make many more plays like that this fall.
“Overall our room in general has great size,” he said. “We’re big targets, can be used in the red zone. Throw it up there and we’ll go get it.”
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