July 29, 2008

TE fall camp preview: What does the future hold?

The Nebraska football team will open up fall camp in less than a week when they take the practice field on Aug. 4. As the countdown to practice begins, HuskersIllustrated.com will breakdown each position heading into camp with in-depth position analysis. This afternoon we breakdown the tight ends position, where the Huskers are loaded with new faces and question marks.

















Biggest question: What will happen to the role of the tight end?

Of any position on Nebraska's depth chart, one of the most unsettled has to be tight end. The Huskers lost three seniors and two starters from last year in J.B. Phillips and Sean Hill, and the status of senior Hunter Teafatiller is still unknown after separate D.U.I. charges during the offseason. Teafatiller is by far the most experienced of the group with four touchdown catches in 32 career games. At the moment, sophomore Mike McNeill and Ryan Hill list at No. 1 and 2 on the depth chart, respectively. McNeill played in eight games last year with one catch, while Hill spent all of last season on the scout team. All things considered, the tight end could be somewhat of an afterthought in NU's offense early in the season.

What we know right now: The potential is there

Though McNeill and Hill have a whopping one career reception between them, both look to have the physical tools to eventually develop into solid tight ends. McNeill (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) has the ability to stretch the field with good speed, similar to what Matt Herian did a couple years ago. Hill has yet to play in a game, but he impressed coaches last year on the scout team. He also put on roughly 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason and is now up to 245 pounds.


Fresh fall camp faces: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed

With the mass loss of experience the Huskers suffered at the position last year, don't be surprised if both Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed eventually work their way into the mix to provide some depth. A top-25 tight end by Rivals.com last year coming out of Ames (Iowa) High, Cotton gives the Huskers an athletic, big bodied target at 6-6, 230. Reed is listed as a fullback, but he said he expects to play more as an H-back, similar to what Phillips did last season. Reed had more than 500 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last year for St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) High.

Early camp prediction

Having Teafatiller is a huge boost for the unit merely in terms of experience. If he is forced to miss some time though for disciplinary reasons, though, the load will come down on the shoulders of sophomores and freshmen. The Huskers have plenty of young athletes at the position, but the role of the tight end could be simplified significantly to help ease the learning curve. This likely won't bode well for quarterback Joe Ganz, who needs all the targets he can get with an already inexperienced receiving corps.




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