Following the conclusion of Nebraska football’s spring practice season, The Daily Nebraskan is breaking down each position group and evaluating which players might make an impact in 2019. This is the fifth of nine installments.
The Big Ten has a tradition of producing great offensive linemen. A conference that used to focus on the ground-and-pound has slowly morphed into a spread offense. Despite this, one principle seems to be the same as it was 20 years ago: A good offensive line is going to win games in the Big Ten.
Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, only one offensive lineman has made first-team All-Big Ten: Spencer Long in 2012. That was the same year Nebraska made its only Big Ten Championship appearance.
There is no doubt that if head coach Scott Frost wants to bring Nebraska to the top, he is going to start on the offensive line. No matter how much speed a team has, someone will have to block for the skill players.
This year’s offensive line may be the biggest question mark for the 2019 season. This doesn’t mean the offensive line is going to regress, but the unit graduated Tanner Farmer, Jerald Foster, and Cole Conrad, who were not only the leaders of the group, but the whole team.
Projected returning starters are junior Brendan Jaimes at left tackle, junior Boe Wilson or sophomore Trent Hixson at right guard and junior Matt Farniok at right tackle.
This leaves three open spots on the line.
Redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens has transitioned from tight end to center in one season. Not only has he made the transition, but he is the favorite to take over the starting center position.
Junior John Raridon or incoming freshman Bryce Benhart will look to take the starting left guard position.
Frost said there was more separation from the first-team and second-team offensive linemen in the spring, and the summer will only help those players get stronger. Sophomore Matt Sichterman and senior Christian Gaylord also saw some playing time last year. Redshirt freshman Will Farniok and sophomore Hunter Miller could also challenge Jurgens for the starting center position.
Also enrolling with Benhart this summer will be highly touted recruits Michael Lynn, Matthew Anderson and Jimmy Fritzche. All three freshmen will most likely redshirt, but they could become key pieces to the line in the near future.
This group had its highs and lows last season. Last year, Nebraska’s offensive line started out strong in their first few games before hitting a low point against Michigan. Then, injuries hit the group, but they were consistent throughout the end of the year.
If the offensive line stays healthy, they may be in for a solid year, and history shows what a good offensive line can do in the Big Ten.