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2023 Nebraska Football Preview: Tight Ends

A Position of Transition

North Dakota v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

I found an old Corn Nation article written by our beloved Jon Johnston back in 2009 regarding some of the best Tight Ends in Nebraska’s history. Junior Miller, Johnny Mitchell, Gerald Armstrong, Matt Herian and Mike McNeill are mentioned as the best individuals who donned the Scarlett and Cream in this position.

I have only one question, do any of them have any eligibility and would they like to come back for another season? Ok, so it was a two-part, but still only one question.

For those who noticed the returning production of the wide receivers was thin at best, consider the return of the tight ends. I’m talking George Constanza hairline thin. Travis Vokolek is out of eligibility, and thanks to the Galactic Senate, Chancellor Brewington has now graduated to Emperor (couldn’t resist a bad dad joke involving Star Wars).

Let’s take a look at who can fill the voids.

Nate Boerkircher

2022 Season Stats: 6 receptions 52 yards 1 touchdown

Statistically, Nate is “The Highlander”, as in “there can be only one”. The proverbial one-man wolfpack who returns any receiving stats from last season. A guy who simply has to be available in the passing game if it’s to be successful. In terms of the run game, look for him to be used in most 2 TE sets. My prediction for him this season is to have 20+ catches, as he will be the most reliable guy if others aren’t available.

Thomas Fidone II

Fidone didn’t play a snap last season, but IF he can be healthy, he will be a prime target for Jeff Sims. There is zero denying injuries have plagued his career at Nebraska so far, but the potential is there. Physically he could be the best TE on the roster, but if he gets hurt early again, this once promising prospect could be looked at as a bust. If he plays the entire season however, Fidone has the potential to put up gawdy numbers.

Arik Gilbert

Here’s the interesting one. The prized transfer out of Georgia who would easily lead the group statistically if he’s deemed eligible. There have been two similar transfers recently that have been deemed ineligible to play at other schools, but if there is one good sign for Gilbert, is that the consistently inconsistent NCAA is due for a ruling that doesn’t make sense and will let him play. His physical prowess is what made him a prized transfer target. A big playmaker who can also set the edge in the running game. Fingers crossed he is deemed eligible.

Then there are the guys who will have to grow up fast, Luke Lindenmeyer, John Goodwin, Jake Appleget, Cayden Echternach, Ismael Smith Flores and Caden Becker. Goodwin is a Junior and is actually the eldest member of the position. These guys are going to be thrown into the fire faster than any rings destroyed by hobbits. Matt Rhule has hinted at a lot of 2 TE sets, which means many of these guys will get playing time, especially if Gilbert isn’t eligible and Fidone gets hurt again (I hope I didn’t jinx it).

I can honestly say I have zero idea what to expect from the tight ends this season, but with a lot of young faces with a second new position coach this summer/fall, this is the one position I think faces the biggest question marks of the entire offense. Settling into the offense quickly is imperative and failure is not an option.