If it feels like Nebraska’s young set of tight ends continues to get more involved in the passing game, you’re not mistaken.
The group hasn’t had monster numbers or even probably as much production as expected in Scott Frost’s first year, but Sean Bectkon’s group has come on a bit recently.
In the past two games, Husker tight ends have caught all seven targets for 116 yards, or nearly 40 percent of their total yardage on the season.
“Coaches, I think, are really expanding all of our threats across the field,” said redshirt freshman and Aurora native Austin Allen. “Obviously, there’s a lot of JD (Spielman) and (Stanley Morgan) to begin the season, and now we’re expanding it out which is really nice. When Coach calls our number, we just need to make a play, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
“We trusted from the start because we watched film of UCF and we saw how much they used their tight ends. We knew we’d get our time, and our time is kind of coming around.”
Allen made the biggest catch by a tight end yet this year against the Buckeyes, a 41-yarder on a slick design that left him wide open up the left sideline. The 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman has been targeted only four times this year and fellow towering redshirt freshman Kurt Rafdal just six, but they’ve both made the most of their chances. Allen is averaging 13.5 yards per target and Rafdal, 11.2. Sophomore Jack Stoll is third on the team with 25 targets and has 14 catches for 170 yards.
All three of them, of course, will be together at least the next two years in Lincoln, growing as the offense grows. They won't approach the 50-plus catches and 800-plus yards that the Knights' group compiled last year, but they feel like they can have a big impact down the stretch and well into the future.
“It’s great that we’re so young because they can develop us almost from the get-go, right from the start,” Allen said. “It’s nice that we’re not losing anybody because we can really bond together these three years. Usually when you lose a senior you lose some leadership and lose some brotherhood, but we’re going to be sticking together for a while.”