When the offseason descends upon college football, attention largely turns to recruiting. However, a process just as important takes place behind the scenes: strength and conditioning. To say this is where games are won and lost is no joke. It is in the weight room, at the training table, and with specialists that players fine-tune their bodies for spring practice and the eventual 2019 kickoff.
Luke McCaffrey, QB
When it comes to quarterbacks, Nebraska’s depth chart remains shaky. Obviously, Adrian Martinez has the starting role locked up with Noah Vedral, Andrew Bunch, Matt Masker and McCaffrey as backup options. Bunch has already started exploring a transfer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him elsewhere after the spring.
However, the Huskers are building quality depth as 2020 will see them with an upperclassman Martinez, McCaffrey with a year in the system and incoming stud Logan Smothers. These three could easily be the eventual top three options. In the meantime, McCaffrey may see experience in four games while developing and learning over the course of a redshirt season. Martinez and Masker weigh in at 220 pounds while Bunch and Vedral check in at 210 and 200, respectively. Meanwhile, McCaffrey is a much lighter 185. He’ll easily be able to meet or exceed the 200-pound mark once we’re back here in a year’s time.
Maurice Washington, RB
Regardless of whether or not junior college transfer Dedrick Mills signs with Nebraska, Washington must continue to improve. He staked his claim for significant snaps after performing at an astonishing level in 2018 while lean and lanky at 190 pounds. Now, the staff must help him walk the fine line between building muscle and retaining speed. Weighing in at 205 pounds is a good goal between now and fall camp.
Wandale Robinson, WR
It’s no secret that Nebraska is going to want Robinson ready to go for 2019. Scott Frost sold Robinson on using him as he did current Kansas City Chief De’Anthony Thomas during his time at Oregon. Thomas checked in at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds in Eugene while Robinson is listed at 5-foot-10, 180. Cutting down body fat and getting him physically ready to take Big Ten shots will be key. Seeing him at 185 pounds by the fall wouldn’t surprise as that would tie him with junior speedster JD Spielman.
Will Farniok, OL
The younger Farniok on Nebraska’s roster could find himself anywhere from a backup across the interior line or even as the Huskers’ starting center if Desmond Bland doesn’t make it to Lincoln. Farniok has the talent but his current size (6-3, 290) does him no favors. Yes, he does need to be mobile, but without the strength or size for proper leverage, that does him no good. Getting him to the 300-pound mark – if not over – is a must.
For reference, during Oregon’s 2014 season which included a national championship appearance, Frost oversaw an offensive line that averaged a little more than 300 pounds. If we use the likely lineup should Farniok start at center (along with Brenden Jaimes, Boe Wilson, Trent Hixson, and Matt Farniok), that quintet checks in at 305 pounds. The 2014 Ducks would run into an Ohio State buzzsaw, losing 59-20 in the College Football Playoff National Championship. No doubt Frost has learned his lesson.
Cameron Jurgens, OL
An exciting prospect, Jurgens has several things going against him. Those being his size (6-3, 270), his recent rash of injuries (he was out during most of his high school senior season and during his first year at Nebraska), and the fact that he’s never played offensive line before.
He could find himself in a backup role out of necessity, especially if Bland doesn’t sign. He’ll probably get tired of eating in the meantime as a major bulking project requires thousands of calories in addition to practically living in the weight room.
Trent Hixson, OL
Hixson has a good shot at taking over the right guard spot. Look for Boe Wilson to move to left guard to take over for the departed Jerald Foster making room for the walk-on. Out of all offensive linemen listed, Hixson needs simple refinement more than anything. At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, putting on more lean muscle along with building upper body strength and proper movement is his mission. He’s a player whose growth Husker fans should pay attention to between the spring game and fall camp, both literally and figuratively.
DaiShon Neal, DE
Neal has the size (6-7, 310) to be an effective defensive end for coordinator Erik Chinander in his senior year. So the only things that appear to be the biggest roadblock between him and a starting spot up front are speed and stamina. Khalil and Carlos Davis will get their shots on the outside, but 2019 offers Neal a chance to break out as a prototypical 3-4 end.
Will Honas, ILB
Following an injury that forced him to take a redshirt season, Honas gets a reset. This is good news for Nebraska, who needs interior depth at linebacker in a bad way. Aside from Mohamed Barry, there isn’t a name that can be definitively penciled in at any spot on the two-deep. Honas (6-1, 235) doesn’t have the ideal height for a 3-4 linebacker, but neither does Barry and he’s shown that can be mitigated. For Honas, his main objectives this spring will be regaining strength in his injured knee and becoming an even thicker force in the middle of the defense.
Nick Henrich, ILB
The incoming freshman from Omaha has excellent height (6-4) but is undersized (210) for his position. If the physiology gods are kind to him, he may be able to put on enough weight to be efficient in a backup role this fall. It’s almost a given that he’ll see time in four games. The possibility of any more remains up in the air, but Chinander wants to be able to substitute at his leisure. Obviously, everyone's body is unique, but if Henrich’s takes to strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval’s program, he remains even more intriguing heading into spring and beyond.
Deontai Williams, S
Three key departures in the secondary came in the form of Aaron Williams, Tre Neal, and Antonio Reed, all safeties. During the playing time he did see, Williams showed himself to be a tremendous force. He’s the kind of hard-hitting safety that can be a terror in any conference. Currently weighing in at 200 pounds, seeing the 6-foot-1 defensive back add 10-15 pounds to his frame is a realistic goal. If he’s able to properly beef up while increasing his stamina, he’ll be in a position to battle for extensive playing time.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him with tips, story ideas or for interview purposes, click here.