Austin Allen comfortable in Big Red debut

Redshirt freshman tight end Austin Allen was feeling the nerves in the moments leading up to Nebraska’s spring game Saturday morning.
Understandably so – he hadn’t played a competitive down in over a year. Even he believed it was longer than that after spending most of his senior season at Aurora injured.
But then he caught a pass. And another one, and another one. By the end of the game, he felt like he belonged.
I can’t argue.
“It was good to come out here as a freshman and make an impact on the Red squad,” Allen said. “It’s nice to be able to get back out there on the field. It’s like I haven’t played football in two years. Playing this game was something special.”
The debut and return of Nebraska’s native son Scott Frost brought with it some high competition at several positions. Quarterback will be the one most discussed and dissected. Tight end could be the most intriguing.
Four guys -- Allen, Jack Stoll, Kurt Rafdal and David Engelhaupt -- all made receptions and their own impacts during the spring game. None separated themselves as the frontrunner, either.
“These guys are real competitors and have shown it through spring ball,” Allen said of his tight end teammates. “May the best man win. We’re all working hard and that’s going to help us.”
There was no real variety or jaw-dropping plays in the game. The most excitement probably came when fellow Aurora native and reserve receiver Todd Honas pulled up to pass (it didn’t go well).
However, the plays didn’t need flare. That will come. We need a grasp and understanding. We got that.
Allen’s signature moment of the game was the final play of the third quarter. After catching the ball in the flat, he turned upfield and made a defender miss with a cutting juke move.
The sidestepping added an extra 20-plus yards to what was his longest catch of the game -- 26 yards. He had three catches for 43 yards.
“I like how this offense uses the tight end,” Allen noted. “I had that drop on the sideline -- I wish I could have that one back. That should have been six. We did a lot of great things as a team and can only go up from here.”
Ah yes, the dropped pass. Allen did and would put the blame on himself -- he wants to haul in every pass. It would’ve been a highlight one-handed grab, but was oh so close to a touchdown.  
Tristan Gebbia spotted Allen sneak behind the second level of the defense and had a walk-in touchdown opportunity.
Instead of leading Allen to the end zone, the ball was behind him. Allen put on the brakes and tried to reach back with one hand, but couldn’t haul it in.
The offensive tempo was something I’m still trying to get used to and that was one of the biggest adjustments for Allen and the Huskers. Long gone are the days of huddles and Allen says that’s fine by him. He wants to go fast.
“I’m not really a big huddle up guy, I enjoy getting up and go,” Allen noted. “I am a big Scott Frost guy. Just get the play from the sideline and let’s go.”
Even though the pace at the spring game was much faster than I’m used to as a Nebraska disciple, the speed in which the offense clicked off plays is nowhere near it’s top gear.
“The tempo today probably wasn’t what we’d like; we want to go faster,” Allen said of Saturday’s play speed. “Once we get going, we’ll be up and going fast.”
Allen noted he is also a fan of the 6 a.m. practices, getting to work early and having the rest of the day. He was also one of the Huskers who came down with the hard-hitting virus that spread through most of the team, but was fine by Saturday.
One of the big questions shot Ozzy’s way was about his stature. We all know about the giant 6’8” frame. It’s still hard to believe he was overthrown on the sideline as his other incomplete pass.
But, as a tight end, where does the weight stack up?
Allen reported that he stands at around 240 pounds right now, up from 226 pounds when it started.
Tireless in the weight room, Allen is a big fan of new strength coach Zach Duval and the workout program. He didn’t see the amount of gains that he would’ve liked, but it’s coming along.
“I didn’t put on as much weight as I’d like to this offseason but it will come in the summer, hopefully,” Allen said.
Throughout the game, Allen spent time lined up in tight on the line as well as out wide. The ability to catch and block was on full display.
There was a quarterback trap play in the first half that Adrian Martinez scored on that stuck out to me. Why? Allen got in front and chipped one of the linebackers just long enough to spring Martinez into the end zone. There was absolutely no score there without Allen’s block.
Like I said, the quarterback battle is going to dominate the headlines up until the point that Frost actually makes a decision, which won’t be any time soon. Que the hot takes.
However, who’s playing tight end may be right up there. Allen’s performance Saturday played himself squarely into the conversation, no doubt. It’s up to him now to put in the work during the summer and into fall camp and earn the job.
One thing’s for sure -- Oz sure loves this new offense.
“This offense is fun. He (Frost) likes to throw it deep and likes to go underneath to the tight end,” Allen said.
When Frost was hired back in December, there wasn’t a single thought of leaving the program. Instead, Allen went to work. Although it may have been a big surprise to some how many targets the tight ends garnered, it wasn’t a surprise to Allen.
“For a guy like me, Nebraska is home. Whoever is coaching, I’m going to be here,” Allen said. “I researched UCF and how they were using the tight end.”
Oz was targeted a total of five times throughout the scrimmage -- second most on the team. Who edged him out? His good friend and fellow Auroran, Todd Honas.
Allen, sporting an Aurora football state championship sweatshirt in front of a gaggle of reporters after the game, showed genuine happiness for his friend from high school.
 “The whole town is looking over us and we did pretty well,” Allen surmised.
Two players. One hometown. All pride.

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