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Nebraska Football 2023 Spring Preview: The Tight Ends

Thomas Fidone and Arik Gilbert have Husker fans drooling at what might be if this is finally the year for these two wells of extreme potential.

A few years ago, I did a spring preview of the Tight Ends because I was excited about trying to write something about the returners from a position group whose statistics in their entirety amounted to 12 a tackle on special teams by a walk-on sophomore. I saw this group and decided it was time to go for it again.

To be fair, Nate Boerkircher’s six receptions and Arik Gilbert’s freshman year at LSU far exceed that, but this is again a position which is wide open given that all but a tiny bit of last year’s production has moved on.

It is populated by one transfer and five redshirts who bring varying levels of potential and recruiting service recognition. Their experience also varies from Arik Gilbert’s substantial playing time as a freshman at LSU to minimal time on the field for a couple players to no playing time at all yet for others.

In other words, don’t expect too much certainty coming out of spring ball. This position could be fluid well into the season, but that’s not going to stop me from trying to rank this way too early depth chart in some way. I’m just going to split it up into the four below with a few thoughts. As always, please add yours in the comments below.:


#89 - Arik Gilbert - Soph - Marietta, GA - In the 2020 recruiting class, Gilbert was the consensus #1 TE and #5 ranked recruit overall. He was All Freshman SEC with 35 Catches for 368 yards and 2 TD’s for LSU in his initial season and played sparingly after transferring to Georgia. (transferred to NU from Georgia).

I believe they’re saying he’s around 6’6” 275 now but moving like 220 pounder? As stated above, he was rated as the #5 player over in the 2020 class and if Rhule and Bob Wager can wring just a little of that potential out of him, Nebraska’s offense starts entering lethal territory. He has the kind of talent which could land him in the NFL draft after one season even though he has three left.

Mississippi State v LSU Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

#24 - Thomas Fidone II - Soph - Council Bluffs - In the 2021 recruiting class, Fidone was the consensus #2 TE (behind Georgia’s Brock Bowers) and #67 ranked recruit nationally as well as #1 in Nebraska. He was Academic All-Big 10 in 2022.

The only person who wants to see Fidone make it happen more than Husker fans is Thomas himself. After suffering through two knee injuries, “chomping at the bit” doesn’t seem strong enough to describe how badly he wants on the field. Coaches are trying to be cautious because they realize it’s difficult for teams to find one guy who can defend one person like Fidone or Gilbert, let alone both at the same time.


#47 - Chase Androff - RFr - Lakeville, MN - Chase had a consensus 3-star ranking in the 2022 class.

In a young and very full position group, it is an important spring for Androff to make himself stand out as the staff will not slow down looking for elite talent here. He comes from a run-heavy high school offense in Lakeville.

#83 - Jake Appelget - RFr - Lincoln - Jake was a consensus 3-star and the #6 Nebraska ranked recruit in the 2022 class.

Appelget has the kind of size and athleticism to be very dangerous at the position in Rhule’s offense. I see him as still being in the developmental process as they try to add additional size.

#49 - Nate Boerkircher - Soph - Aurora, NE - (WALK ON) Nate caught 6 passes for 52 yards and a TD last season and was Academic All-Big 10 in both 2021 and 2022.

A shortage at TE last led to Nate jumping up and making the most of his chances. It will be interesting to see if he can remain ahead of the younger competition. If he does, he should be due for a scholarship.

North Dakota v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

#12 - Janiran Bonner - RFr - Ellenwood, GA - Bonner was a consensus 4-star recruit and ranked 61st nationally at the WR position. He switched to TE this spring.

A highly ranked WR, Janiran’s size prompted a move to TE and let’s face it; the position can almost be split in two these days - the big guy who can seal off the end in short yardage and other obvious run situations and the guys with “TE” next to their name in the program who will never line up next to a tackle in 4 years but create matchup nightmares. I’m thinking the coaches see the latter here.

#86 - AJ Rollins - Soph - Omaha - (currently also practicing at DE) In the 2021 class, Rollins was a consensus 3-star, the #46 ranked TE and the #8 recruit in Nebraska. He appeared in 7 games in his first 2 seasons.

Rollins is a player who has seen limited action in his first two seasons and is another one who needs a strong spring to get noticed and put himself in a position move up the depth chart in the fall or risk getting buried. Will the staff carry 7 scholarship TE’s into the fall? It seems like a high number.


#46 - John Goodwin - Jr - Lincoln

#45 - Braden Klover - Soph - Wymore, NE

#99 - Luke Lindenmeyer - RFr - Lavista - Played in 1 game in 2022


Ismael Smith-Flores - Fr - Crowley, TX

Cayden Echternach - Fr - Bennington

Nebraska Cornhuskers