LINCOLN — Wan’Dale Robinson has lived up to the hype so far in camp, offensive coordinator Troy Walters said.
The former four-star recruit from Kentucky missed most of spring with a hamstring injury, so coaches have Robinson on a play count.
“He’s looked good. He’s staying healthy, that was the key. In spring he was nicked up a little bit so he’s doing a good job taking care of his body,” Walters said. “He’s everything that we hope for. He makes plays as a receiver, he’s making plays as a running back. So that dual-threat option is gonna cause challenges for opposing defenses.”
Despite the play count, Walters added that Robinson is smart enough that he doesn’t need that many reps to understand the offense.
“The key with him is making sure he’s fresh and ready to go Week 1,” Walters said.
McCaffrey competing for backup role
Freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey got reps with the first string offense a few days ago, NU quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said.
“He did a really nice job,” Verduzco said. “He really did.”
The freshman from Colorado is in a battle for the backup spot behind Adrian Martinez. Heading into camp, Noah Vedral has the edge, Verduzco said.
But McCaffrey has been right there with the UCF transfer. McCaffrey has put on some weight in the summer and been working on “mechanical issues.” And off the field, he’s been as on-point as any quarterback Verduzco has coached.
“Boy, I tell you, he did a tremendous job on his playbook test. Man, I mean it was out of sight,” Verduzco said. “It was really, really, really, really good. As good as I've ever been around for a young guy.”
Tight end Allen settling in
The panic that comes from being unprepared for a big test? Austin Allen has shed that feeling like an undersized corner.
Another offseason of studying the offense has helped the 6-foot-8 tight end from Aurora. So has dropping his body fat.
He’s at 250 pounds now — the most he’s ever weighed — and working toward 265. The five fall practices have felt more like a warmup than a final exam.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Allen said. “Last year, there were a lot of times going into camp where there were stressful situations like ‘Oh gosh, what do I do? I gotta know what I gotta do right now.’ This fall camp, there’s no stress. (Strength coach Zach) Duval got us right this summer.”
Allen said it has left him free to dial in on technique and details — and improving on his two catches for 54 yards from last year.
“We can run any play out of any formation,” Allen said. “If we wanted to, we could do three tight ends. I think we’re seeing a lot more two tight-end sets, and I’m loving that out of (Scott) Frost.”
Young linemen playing well
Offensive line coach Greg Austin said new center Ethan Piper — a true freshman from Norfolk Catholic — has size 11 hands and short-area quickness. He’s also smart.
“This kid is a secondary education science major, and he’s taking physics. He already has a semester’s load of college credits coming into college,” Austin said. “He’s a bright kid.”
Another true freshman, Bryce Benhart, is “progressing well,” Austin said. Benhart was a right tackle with the No. 2 unit Wednesday. Austin said he doesn’t know yet if Benhart will burn his redshirt.
“(Thursday) and Friday will mean a lot,” Austin said.
Austin also called Bellevue West redshirt freshman walk-on AJ Forbes “tough” and “coachable.” Forbes has willingly played every position on the line, Austin said, except left tackle.
“That tells you what kind of team player he is,” Austin said.
NU tight ends coach Sean Beckton said Rutgers transfer Travis Vokolek is ahead of where the coach expected him to be. The junior, who will sit out this season, has earned “dude” status from position mate Allen. “At the moment, I’d say his only flaw would be he’s slow,” Allen said. “But he’s got great hands. He’s a big body. He’s blocking guys down the field. ... He’s going to be a great addition to us next year. Having him as competition in fall camp is awesome because he looks like a Big Ten tight end.”
Asked when redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens could start taking snaps at center, Austin replied, “My expectations kind of hinge on his health.”