Losses: Travis Vokolek, Chris Hickman, James Carnie
Returning Scholarship: Thomas Fidone, AJ Rollins, Chase Androff
Additions: Arik Gilbert (Georgia), Jake Appleget (defense), Janiran Bonner (wide receiver), Ismael Smith-Flores
We go from having options with Quarterback and Runningback, to me being worried for our TE position in 2023. If you look at our roster on the surface, Nebraska more than likely will have 2 out of their top 5 players on the roster in the TE room with Fidone and Gilbert. But that only paints a shell of the picture. Fidone has had 2 knee injuries and GIlbert has bounced around from team to team trying to find the right place. Further, he came here at 280 pounds and while I know that made Husker fans ecstatic, it makes me concerned.
Make no mistake about this… if Fidone can stay healthy and Gilbert can get to 265 and fix off the field stuff, we have elite TEs. My problem is i’m quite certain Rhule knows just how thin we are here. He is holding Fidone out a bit because we can’t afford an injury to him. Further, he moved Appleget from defense over to TE. While i’m sure it could be due to the position suiting him better… it throws caution my way.
Fidone will be our number 1 in my opinion once fall camp comes around, but Gilbert if he can get everything on track will be our X factor. But he hasn’t played in so long it sometimes can be tough to get back to what you used to be.
While I don’t think these guys will be 1 and 2 for us the entirety of the season, the real question is who is going to step up in the next paragraph. Nate Boekircher is a walk-on that got some playing time last year when we were a bit banged up. He looked the part in my opinion, but does he have enough to fend off guys like Gilbert if he gets his act together? The other guy he needs to worry about is AJ Rollins. Now, Rollins is a guy that I said would never make it here under the old staff. He was a guy that showed out at camps with impressive numbers, he just wanted to be a basketball guy and football was secondary. Once basketball wasn’t an option he moved to focusing on football. But that would have required our previous staff developing him which I hadn’t seen done, so I was of the opinion he wouldn’t play at all. But in comes this new staff and Rollins is actually everything they look for. Guys that may have minimal football experience or gaudy stats but have fast 40s and explosive verticals. He could be my sleeper this fall with a new lease on his career.
I’m not on the Androff train and it will be interesting to see how guys like Appleget and Bonner insert themselves to this position group.
Tons of intrigue here and plenty of storylines. But we don’t need ceilings, we want production. Can Fidone stay healthy? Can Gilbert get his weight in check and off the field issues taken care of? Can Rollins develop further? Can Boerkircher continue his trajectory? This staff loves to use the TEs so all someone has to do is go take it. With Fidone sitting out and Gilbert needing to get back to playing shape, Boerkircher and Rollins may come out looking pretty good this spring.