Husker tight ends continue to transform, and their coach is thrilled to have some 'monsters'
The names are the same. But Sean Beckton is seeing early evidence that he has a different room of tight ends.
The most obvious change may be Jack Stoll's mullet. It's bigger than ever, Beckton joked Thursday on "Sports Nightly."
More seriously, the Nebraska tight ends coach said his unit's physical development and added versatility could have them doing more than just run blocking this fall.
"I'm just thrilled to have some of these monsters that I'm going to have for a long time here in the program," Beckton said.
The group is still young. Stoll, a junior, is the seasoned veteran. Redshirt sophomores Austin Allen and Kurt Rafdal, along with redshirt freshman Katerian Legrone, are the most likely on-field contributors in 2019.
Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek will sit out this season in accordance with NCAA rules, but Beckton said he's already grasping Nebraska's offensive concepts. Chris Hickman — the 6-foot-6, 210-pound true freshman from Omaha Burke — is healthy but needs to add substantial weight and strength before he appears in a game.
As for the returning players, Beckton has noticed improvements in all of them.
Allen and Rafdal have added weight. Allen, in particular, has made big strength gains in his upper body. Both are moving weight in leg workouts like they never have before. Stoll has self-critiqued through video and workouts in an effort to make a larger impact in the passing game. Legrone has a deeper understanding of the offense after playing "cautious" during his redshirt year.
"They're delightful," Beckton said. "They work their tail off in the weight room and you can tell the body difference from what Coach (Zach) Duval has done to them just by looking at them and seeing their confidence level really improve."
Nebraska's roster also includes freshmen walk-ons John Goodwin (Lincoln High) and Austin Jablonski (Lincoln Pius X) along with redshirt freshman Bryson Krull (North Platte).
Stoll led all NU tight ends with 21 catches for 245 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last year. Rafdal made four grabs for 67 yards while Allen caught two balls for 54 yards. Legrone had one catch for eight yards.