Looking Ahead to 2013 Husker Football: Offensive Line

Eric Francis

The pipeline is pretty solid in run blocking, but there are still a few too many kinks in pass protection.

At first glance, with both tackles returning along with a second-team all-American guard in Spencer Long, you'd think that offensive line wouldn't be an issue in 2013. But then look a little deeper at Nebraska's tackles. Taylor Martinez was routinely pressured from his blind side, and that resulted in at least three turnovers in 2012. So while Nebraska's offensive line wasn't bad, there's still room for improvement.


2013 Previews
* Quarterbacks
* Running Backs
* Wide Receivers
* Tight Ends
* Defensive Line
* Linebackers
* Secondary
* Special Teams

Returning: Brent Qvale, Sr. OT; Jeremiah Sirles, Sr. OT; Andrew Rodriguez, Sr. OT; Cole Pensick, Sr. OG/C; Spencer Long, Sr. OG; Brodrick Nickens, Sr. OG; Ryne Reeves, So. OG; Mark Pelini, Jr. C; Jake Cotton, Jr. OG; Zach Sterup, So.; Givens Price, So.; Mike Moudy, Jr; Corey Whitaker, So;
Incoming: Matt Finnin, Verbal; Zach Hannon, Verbal; David Knevel, Verbal; Gabriel Miller, Verbal
Departing: Justin Jackson, C; Seung Hoon-Choi, OG

Mike: Let's start with the knowns, such as second-team all-American Spencer Long starting at right guard, and Cole Pensick starting either at the other guard spot or at center. You have to expect Matt Finnin to get a strong look at one of the tackle spots this fall. My bet is Pensick starts at center, and Jake Cotton starts at left guard. I think we might see a lot of Ryne Reeves backing up both Long and Cotton. But with three seniors at offensive tackle, I'm worried about 2014, because I'm skeptical any of the young'uns are going to see playing time at tackle this season.

Brian: I just hope that in this spring/summer period, the pass blocking of this group catches up to the run blocking they have shown. It's mindboggling to me how much there is a difference in the same group.

Another worry to me is Center, You have Mark Penisck, but who behind him? Wouldn't hurt to get some depth there. Maybe Gabriel Miller?

Salt Creek
: *checks coach roster* Sigh. Good lord, we need someone who can back up Rodriquez at RT. Preferably someone who is built to be a tackle - Martinez was sent running to the left quite often this season. Maybe Finnin? Or one of the young guys riding the pine? I don't know.

But the most important thing is that these guys HAVE to get better at protecting the pocket. Taylor Martinez, for all his skills and excitement, is out of his element when being forced to pass while scrambling, especially on the fly. But if our linemen can figure out how to set up a QB draw like Taylor's run in the Big Ten game, well, let's just go with that.

Jon J: Qvale and Sirles have grown to be decent tackles, and maybe the switch will get flipped on this year for Rodriguez, although I believe we'll see him at guard next season (remember he played guard in 2011, starting seven games). Maybe it was a lack of confidence or experience, but he just didn't have a very good first step in pass protection at tackle. If Finnin can come in and make some noise right away, he'll be the third guy behind Sirles and Qvale at tackle.

At guard you've got Long as an obvious starter and Rodriguez (if I'm right) as probable starters. Pensick got experience this season, along with Cotton who drove me nuts during the bowl game because I don't remember him hitting a single block when he was pulling, although that can be fixed with more experience.

You have to think that Sterup will get more time at tackle (played in four games this past year) and that Reeves (also played in four games in 2012) start to contend for playing time at center or guard.

At center you can use either Pensick or possibly Reeves, who would provide a little more size.

Given all these guys and the mix of experience, especially with guys playing multiple positions, I'd say we should have a pretty decent offensive line next season. Most fans believe that Barney Cotton is the weak link in the coaching staff, but Nebraska's offense was eighth nationally in rushing and 26th in total offense. We were 91st in passing, but 41st in passing efficiency. All of those together don't suck and when you include the fact that linemen weren't the ones turning the ball over... well, like I said, the Huskers should have a pretty decent offensive line in 2013.

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