Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck went to Louisiana to recruit a quarterback and months later ended up with a tight end.
Cethan Carter (center) is expected to make his Nebraska debut on Saturday against Wyoming.
Beck was at Archbishop Rummel outside New Orleans to evaluate 2013 dual-threat quarterback Damian Williams last spring when he saw Cethan Carter emerge from the Rummel locker room.
He was immediately intrigued.
"I saw him come out of the locker room and I was like, 'who's that dude?' He was playing defensive end," Beck recalled of Carter. "I asked the coach, 'do you ever play him at tight end?' and he said, 'we're going to use him some there.'"
Though Carter passed the eyeball test, Nebraska didn't offer right away, and wouldn't for several months. Carter was still relatively new to the tight end position, and the Huskers were going full bore after junior college tight end Beau Sandland, who eventually ended up at Miami.
With the Huskers losing both Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed to graduation, Nebraska knew it needed immediate help, and continued to recruit Carter, who held Sun Belt and Conference USA offers even as he blossomed on Rummel's state title team. Carter finished the season with 23 receptions for 418 yards and five touchdowns, capping his senior season with five catches and a touchdown in the state title game. That later earned him a Nebraska offer in late December, and attention from LSU. He committed to Nebraska less than three weeks later shortly after an official visit to Lincoln.
"We were able to recruit him under the radar a little bit, until we thought with the graduation of three of our four guys, we thought maybe a junior college guy would fit us better initially, when that didn't happen, we felt like we needed to get another tight end besides Greg (Hart)," Beck said.
While Nebraska missed on Sandland, it still ended up getting a tight end who will help in 2013. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Carter has impressed since he set foot on campus in June. He was one of the players quarterback Taylor Martinez mentioned in July as standing out in 7-on-7 work, and continued to impress once fall camp began in August.
“He caught my eye early in the summer," Martinez said of Carter. "Just how fast and how well he was catching the ball. He picked up the plays very well and I think he has a knack for the game and how to get open. He has learned quite a few plays in the last couple weeks and has been repping with the 1’s right now because Jake Long has been hurt.”
Carter received an offer from Nebraska in late December, visited in early January and committed a couple weeks before Signing Day.
Carter also was the beneficiary of injuries in fall camp. Long missed most of fall camp while recovering from a knee injury, and redshirt freshman Sam Cotton has been hobbled by a hamstring injury, and now an ankle injury. He is doubtful for Saturday's game, meaning Carter is even likely to make his collegiate debut against Wyoming. Head coach Bo Pelini listed Carter as a player who will help Nebraska immediately this season.
In Pelini’s five seasons at Nebraska, the tight ends have combined for nearly 40 catches per season. Long is the only tight end on Nebraska’s roster with a catch in a Husker uniform.
Just how Carter will help depends on the whims of Beck, who now finds himself with a big target tight end who has experience playing fullback, H-back and other offensive positions. Long will be the starter on Saturday, but Carter won't be far behind him in the rotation.
Beck said he likes what Carter brings to the table. A prep standout on the basketball court as well, Carter has the physical gifts to be a prototypical tight end.
"At 240 or 250 pounds, he's a big bodied guy who is athletic too," Beck said. "He could be a mismatch nightmare for defenses.
"It was one of the reasons we recruited him," Beck said. "We thought he could come in and be an impact player for us because of the skill set he has. It helps having a guy like that because he could give you a lot of formations and not have to change personnel, which allows you to play even faster. That was a lot of seeing the future and seeing what he could bring to the table. Then when he came here, you saw his work ethic and his athleticism, and all the things he possessed, you knew he was going to be able to come in and help us."
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