Matt Farniok and the rest of the Huskers' offensive line are hoping to take a step forward this year
The Nebraska Cornhuskers' offensive skill positions aren’t the only ones in a state of flux. However, offensive line coach Greg Austin finds himself with perhaps the most answers to any questions he encounters as the Huskers continue through spring football. Here’s where the Big Red is coming from and where they’re headed at the line of scrimmage on offense.
Last season featured a great deal of on-the-job training as Nebraska trotted out Cameron Jurgens at center. Any expectations the team had overall were only magnified when it came to the true freshman.
Prior to kickoff, head coach Scott Frost went out of his way to praise the in-state product, comparing him to the likes of Husker great Dave Rimington. While no one’s in a hurry to name a trophy after Jurgens just yet, he did show an impressive level of improvement as the season went on.
Snaps that found themselves in the facemask of Adrian Martinez (if not at his feet) eventually sprang to his chest with precision. However, things took a turn for the worse with the other starting linemen.
Both guard spots were especially vulnerable with both Boe Wilson and Trent Hixson failing to provide the push necessary for running backs and not allowing a proper pocket to form. Thankfully, Broc Bando eventually substituted in for relief and performed admirably.
With the interior suffering as often as it did, it wasn’t a surprise to see both tackle positions struggle at times. Brenden Jaimes's development stalled when coaches hoped he'd take a leap forward. This was admittedly difficult as due to the problems exploited at guard, Jaimes often found himself trying to tangle with two opposing linemen.
While Matt Farniok continued to hold down the right tackle spot with the best of intentions and effort, teams continued to make hay when attacking his left side. Again, we see the deficiencies at guard only making problems worse.
As a result, not only did Nebraska allow nine more tackles for loss (86 total) than in 2018, but they only managed to score touchdowns on 53 percent of red zone opportunities (61 percent in '18).
Key Departures: None
Key Returnees for 2020: Christian Gaylord (Sr.), Brendan Jaimes (Sr.), Boe Wilson (Sr.), Broc Bando (Jr.), Trent Hixson (Jr.), Matt Farniok (So.), Cameron Jurgens (So.)
After taking more lumps last season, the Nebraska offensive line actually looks like it has an excellent opportunity to regroup and improve. If Jurgens continues to enhance at the clip he did during ‘19, the center position may go from being perhaps the unit’s biggest problem to arguably one of its major strengths.
Scott Frost appears ready to pull the trigger on moving Farniok inside at right guard to help alleviate interior headaches. This paves the way for redshirt freshman Bryce Benhart to potentially take over for him at right tackle this spring and solidify that spot heading into August.
The biggest question mark is at left guard. Thanks to a medical hardship waiver, Christian Gaylord has been given a sixth season of eligibility and will give Bando solid competition for the job. In addition, Ethan Piper and early enrolee Turner Corcoran should get a look with the latter potentially finding himself as a swing player at both guard and tackle.
Position Grade for 2019: B+
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) and enjoy the Big Red Three and Out Podcast. To contact him, click here.