Nebraska will enter the 2011 season with plenty of talent to work with at the tight end position. NU will be led by veterans Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton, to go along with a talented group of up and coming players at the position.
Here's a complete fall camp preview of the tight end position heading into next week's opening day of practice.
Biggest question: How will the TE be used?
With a new offensive system under Tim Beck, I think there's still a lot of curiosity of how the tight ends will be utilized this season. Junior Kyler Reed obviously has the potential to be used as a slot receiver similar to Mike McNeill a year ago, while junior Ben Cotton fits more of an h-back role where he can be used out of the backfield. The combination of Reed and Cotton will give Beck the best pair of tight ends the Huskers have had to work with in quite some time.
What we know right now: NU has two established guys
It's pretty clear that Cotton and Reed will carry this position in 2011. Reed is arguably the top returning tight end in the Big Ten, while Cotton is one of the more physical run blocking tight ends around. The question after that is which other guys could potentially step into the fold. One name to watch closely this August is sophomore Jake Long, who contended for playing time as a redshirt freshman last season.
Fresh fall camp faces: David Sutton and Max Pirman
Freshman Max Pirman will start his career off at tight end, but he has the ability to play either defensive end or linebacker. Pirman has said defense is probably his best fit, but NU needs him at tight end to develop the position for the future. Freshman David Sutton may also be in camp this August, but it's still undetermined if he'll be a gray shirt or be a part of the 2011 recruiting class. A lot probably depends on roster availability.
Early camp prediction
In all reality, I only see Cotton and Reed playing a big part at tight end, but when NU goes to a goal line or short yardage set somebody like Long could be utilized as a third tight end. The overall depth is not there right now for this position, but the talent at the top is all that matters. It will important for NU to develop younger players like Pirman and Sutton for the future.