When looking at the tight end position, there might not be that one complete tight end on the roster, but their is new blood ready to develop.
Ben Cotton (Starter) – Little known fact, Cotton ended last year tied for first in career starts on the team. Cotton acted mainly as a third OT when on the field, but was effective in the intermediate passing game.
Conor McDermott – McDermott operated mostly as the fourth tight end last year for Nebraska, playing some H and some U, and was effective in the blocking part of the game.
Kyler Reed (Starter) – Reed was really the receiving option out of he and Cotton, but combined they were an effective duo. Reed battled injuries and still finished ranked in the top 20 in receptions and career yardage in his career.
LOST TOTAL PRODUCTION:
Between Reed and Cotton, Nebraska lost 42 receptions for 596 yards and four touchdowns, but it's the leadership and the time of the field that Nebraska really looks to replace. Between the three senior tight ends there was a combined 117 games and out of that 57 starts. Nebraska really only returns a combined 30 games played with four starts and that is from one player.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Nebraska returns only Jake Long, the twin brother of offensive lineman Spencer, at the tight end position as the only player who has any experience. With very little experience on the roster, Long is one in a platoon of tight ends that Nebraska should see on the football field that are trying to make and leave an impression.
In the spring game many wondered if any tight ends would catch a pass. As it ended up there were 11 receptions, by a combined five different tight ends for 144 yards and a touchdown.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:
Jake Long, SR – Long is the long player returning at the tight end position with any playing experience. Long had six receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown last year.
-OR- Sam Cotton, RFr – Cotton, the younger brother of both Ben and Jake as well as the son of Coach Barney Cotton, led the red squad in receptions in the spring game showing good body control and soft hands.
David Sutton, SO – Sutton is one of three tight ends from Lincoln (Nebr.) Southeast on the roster and is also responsible for the one touchdown to a tight end in the spring game this year.
Jared Blum, RFr – A walk-on from Gretna, Blum had three receptions for 32 yards in the spring game with a long of 15 yards. Blum is a big body that can help provide depth.
Cethan Carter, FR – The Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel product showed the ability in his high school film to be effective from the short to intermediate game, and even proved to be a bit of a match-up issue on deeper routes. Carter is also a very good blocker.
There isn't a position on offense with more question marks than the tight end position. The spring game has had a way in the past of presenting options, even big performances only to not show up at all during the season. While it was good to see the production from all of the tight ends some of the enthusiasm needs to be tempered.
Long definitely needs to be the one that the team, Taylor Martinez, and the other tight ends look to for an example. It may not lead to big offensive numbers. Long's presence on the field needs to rub off by just doing things right, packing a lunch and going to work every day in practice and grading out well on Saturdays.
Behind Long you are looking for someone to emerge between Cotton, Sutton, Blum, possibly Trey Foster and also Carter. Out of that group, Cotton appears to be the most ready with the others nipping at his heels, including Carter. The true freshman has already caught the eye of Nebraska's signal-caller and that could lead to some developing chemistry through the summer.
"I don't remember his name, but he's a tight end. He's really good," said Martinez at Big Ten Media Days. The quarterback was then asked, Cethan Carter? "Yeah, Cethan Carter. He's really good...He will play for us this year."
All of the tight ends on the team are roughly the same size, somewhere in that 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-5 range, and weigh in at 230 to 240-pounds. That is exactly where Carter comes in, but there is something different with him. The film doesn't lie and what it shows is Carter has a knack for making plays as a receiver. The Louisiana native hauled in 23 passes his senior year for 418 yards, averaging over 18 yards per catch and five scores.
The door is wide open for someone, anyone, to walk through it and perform at the tight end position. Right now it's a position of many faces, but no starter proven names.
*** BRR Publisher Josh Harvey contributed to this report ***