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July 7, 2011

Key Huskers: No. 12 Ben Cotton

As the dog days of summer continue, HuskerOnline.com is introducing a new series breaking down Nebraska's top-15 players on the roster heading into 2011.

In today's installment of "Key Huskers," we take a look at tight end Ben Cotton and where he stands entering the start of fall camp.

Cotton's strengths

Fellow tight end Kyler Reed may get more of the glory for his role in Nebraska's passing game, but there's no arguing that junior Ben Cotton is just as valuable in every aspect of the offense. Whether its doing the dirty work by blocking in the running game or coming up with a key third down catch, Cotton does it all as the Huskers' more traditional tight end.

At 6-6, 255, Cotton provides a great additional run blocker on the edge, and his intensity on every play helps sets the tone for the entire offense. Reed gets most of the attention as the receiver of the duo, but Cotton has shown he's capable of coming up with big catches over the past two seasons.

What he still needs to prove

For as much as Cotton does for Nebraska's offense, if there's one knock on his play the last two years it's been his propensity for committing costly penalties. Last season, Cotton was flagged for six total penalties for 80 yards, including three personal fouls.

To his credit, two of those personal fouls came on the same play, but he still needs to clean up his play so he doesn't cost the Huskers by killing drives with penalties. Cotton could also stand to increase his productivity in the passing game, but his role should get a little bit bigger with NU's move to the Big Ten Conference and more use of the play action game.

Most memorable play or moment

Because his presence was mostly felt as a blocker, Cotton didn't get much time in the spotlight last season. He did have a season-best catch of 22 yards in Nebraska's win over Missouri, a play that eventually helped set up a touchdown.

Unfortunately, the moment Cotton may be most remembered for from last year was his blowup against Texas A&M that led to two personal foul penalties. After a Nebraska fumble, Cotton was down in the pile fighting for the football when an Aggie defender came from behind him and "gave him the business", so to speak.

Cotton reacted and was hit with back-to-back flags by the officials, and he received an epic scolding on the sideline from head coach Bo Pelini. Closer replays of the incident, however, showed Cotton had pretty good reason to be upset.

2011 outlook

Cotton is the type of player that just seems like he was built for the Big Ten. His physical style will be a perfect fit against the conferences big, strong defensive front sevens, and he could prove to be a valuable weapon in some play-action passing situations.

More than anything, though, it will be Cotton's passion on the field that will help lead the way for Nebraska's offense this season. Now in his fourth year in the program, Cotton has established himself as a respected player in the Huskers' locker room, and he'll be counted on to be one of the vocal leaders of the offense.

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