Nebraska Football: Projecting the 2019 Offensive Line Depth Chart Scenarios

Matt Farniok will be one of the anchors on what's shaping up to be a very young and inexperienced Huskers' O-line next season

When Scott Frost accepted the job to guide Nebraska's football program just over a year ago, he did so with the fans' best interests in mind. That's more of a happy byproduct though, because what Frost wants is what fans want: the brotherhood he was a part of, leadership throughout a program seemingly rudderless as of late, and for all three phases of a football game to be properly executed. The Blackshirts are getting their legs under them as are the special teams units, but the offensive line, or rather The Pipeline, doesn’t have the luxury of simply keeping pace. When the Cornhuskers have to bail out a struggling defense, the ability to stay in shootouts starts up front.

 

Nebraska's offensive line five did a solid job last season paving the way for their first 1,000-yard rusher in four years in Devine Ozigbo. Stanley Morgan Jr. couldn’t have become the program’s first 1,000-yard receiver without the aid of dynamic true freshman Adrian Martinez. These three players, all crucial to the Huskers’ offensive achievements, couldn’t have done what they did without the help of their offensive line. As Jerald Foster and Tanner Farmer graduate, a great deal of uncertainty surrounds this unit heading into 2019. Despite that, we can roughly estimate what two-deep fans will see when the Huskers take the field versus South Alabama despite how the road forks.

 

The first major question mark is current junior college commit Desmond Bland. Ranked the No. 1 offensive guard and 15th-best JUCO prospect regardless of position by 247Sports, Bland would be considered the heir apparent to Farmer’s starting center position heading into next season. There’s just one problem: he didn’t submit his National Letter of Intent during the recent early signing period (Dec. 19-21). The understanding is that Frost isn’t interested in having a JUCO prospect sign without having their academics 100 percent in order. This makes sense considering it’s a pain waiting around to find out whether or not a potential key contributor is going to make it to campus.

 

Another significant x-factor is the handful of players that offensive line coach Greg Austin will be plugging into the voids left due to graduation. Redshirt sophomore Trent Hixson is a walk-on interior lineman who the coaching staff is very high on. Will Farniok — brother of starting right tackle Matt — is a talented, though still undersized prospect. Redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens also looks to have a noticeably high ceiling. However, like the younger Farniok, he still needs to grow and was injured during the majority of this past season along with his final year in high school. Then, of course, there’s the matter of never having played at any offensive line position before.

 

These players will be identified in italics on the following depth charts. Their exact fit is difficult to project considering they are quite similar in how they can be utilized due to their current development and measurables. This also will help you to appreciate the fluidity that Nebraska is working with.

 

Assuming Bland signs prior to or on Feb. 6, 2019, the Huskers’ offensive line depth chart likely fleshes out like so:

 

Left tackle: Brenden Jaimes (Jr.) - 20 starts; Matt Sichterman (R-So.) - 0 starts
Left guard: Boe Wilson (R-Jr.) - 9 starts; John Raridon (R-Jr.) - 0 starts
Center: Desmond Bland (R-Jr.) - 0 starts; Will Farniok (R-Fr.) - 0 starts
Right guard: Trent Hixson (R-So.) - 0 starts; Joshua Wegener (Jr.) - 0 starts
Right tackle: Matt Farniok (R-Jr.) - 18 starts; Bryce Benhart (Fr.) - 0 starts

 

Should Bland not sign with Nebraska or go elsewhere, Nebraska’s line situation looks more like this:

 

Left tackle: Brenden Jaimes (Jr.) - 20 starts; Matt Sichterman (R-So.) - 0 starts
Left guard: Boe Wilson (R-Jr.) - 9 starts; John Raridon (R-Jr.) - 0 starts
Center: Will Farniok (R-Fr.) - 0 starts; Joshua Wegener (Jr.) - 0 starts
Right guard: Trent Hixson (R-So.) - 0 starts; Cameron Jurgens (R-Fr.) - 0 starts
Right tackle: Matt Farniok (R-Jr) - 18 starts; Bryce Benhart (Fr.) - 0 starts

 

Note how the younger Farniok now steps in as a potential replacement for Farmer at center. However, Wegener is transferring in from Iowa Western Community College as a walk-on ranked as the No. 1 JUCO center in the nation. Despite his inexperience at the position — he just started playing on the offensive side of the ball last year — he probably didn’t become a Cornhusker to sit on the bench.

 

The other major unknown is Bryce Benhart. He was a major get as a legitimate (and massive) offensive tackle. It should speak volumes that the idea of him starting from day one is being seriously considered. Five true freshmen have started on a Cornhusker offensive line in the program’s history. One of those has Nebraska’s left tackle spot locked down in Jaimes. If Benhart is that rare breed of lineman and Frost will have Bland in Lincoln come the fall, the regenerating Pipeline takes this shape:

 

Left tackle: Brenden Jaimes (Jr.) - 20 starts; Matt Sichterman (R-So.) - 0 starts
Left guard: Boe Wilson (R-Jr.) - 9 starts; Trent Hixson (R-So.) - 0 starts
Center: Desmond Bland (R-Jr.) - 0 starts; Will Farniok (R-Fr.) - 0 starts
Right guard: Matt Farniok (R-Jr.) - 18 starts; Joshua Wegener (Jr.) - 0 starts
Right tackle: Bryce Benhart (Fr.) - 0 starts; Matt Farniok (R-Jr.) - 18 starts

 

Finally, we look at a scenario where Bland doesn’t show up, but Benhart is ready to pop pads with the Big Ten’s best immediately. This is the extremely green, but exceptionally talented crew you’re likely to see:

 

Left tackle: Brenden Jaimes (Jr.) - 20 starts; Matt Sichterman (R-So.) - 0 starts
Left guard: Boe Wilson (R-Jr.) - 9 starts; Trent Hixson (R-So.) - 0 starts
Center: Will Farniok (R-Fr.) - 0 starts; Joshua Wegener (Jr.) - 0 starts
Right guard: Matt Farniok (R-Jr.) - 18 starts; Cameron Jurgens (R-Fr.) - 0 starts
Right tackle: Bryce Benhart (Fr.) - 0 starts; Matt Farniok (R-Jr.) - 18 starts

 

Frost is getting the pieces for a plug-and-play depth chart of offensive linemen, not unlike the ones that were Nebraska’s calling card for decades. Regardless of what happens with Bland and Benhart, the Huskers do get a more manageable schedule in 2019. This means that while the hosses up front may struggle at times, they have enough talent to mask some of their current flaws. Day by day, they’ll get better and better.

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).

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