If there’s one group of Nebraska footballers whose stock is trending upwards, it’s the offensive line. Excellent recruiting combined with the work of coach Mike Cavanaugh is helping the Huskers’ maulers crawl back to the long-cherished title of “The Pipeline.”
Nebraska’s offensive line had a roller coaster ride last season, but ultimately a working solution formed. Alex Lewis took his expected place at left tackle with a captainship while former walk-on Dylan Utter manned the left guard spot.
Ryne Reeves picked up the center position and Chongo Kondolo would sit next to him at right guard. Redshirt freshman Nick Gates finalized the lineup at right tackle.
Lewis’ discipline was tested weekly as it was nearly expected that he’d be called for one or two false starts per game. The occasional personal foul elicited a groan from the Big Red faithful as well.
There was a positive, though. Kondolo had been a liability in both rush and pass blocking, so the coaches decided to move Zach Sterup inside. He'd been serving as a replacement for Gates as he healed from injury. Gates more than held his own against upperclassmen and this new combination on the right side. allowed the Huskers to gather momentum on the offensive side of the ball.
Nebraska was also able to post the nation’s No. 33 passing offense, but struggles establishing a ground game put the rushing offense at No. 52.
Key Departures: Alex Lewis, Ryne Reeves
Key Returners for 2016: Dylan Utter (Sr.), Nick Gates (So.)
This unit will likely be one of the youngest that the Huskers feature overall, but it’s far from lacking talent. The key returners all likely pick up their spots due to key in-game experience.
One name that’s been hot on fan’s lips ever since his recruitment is redshirt freshman Jalin Barnett. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound manbeast has been penciled in at right guard to replace Sterup by some.
Look for a mix of guys who’ve been there and those who’ve been groomed to maul as additions for 2016. Cavanaugh has a lot to work with and has to find out who will be his other tackle in the coming year.