Nebraska Football: Previewing the '14 Offensive Line

This is about as much credit as linemen get. - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Gone:

Cole Pensick (14), Brent Qvale (18), Andrew Rodriguez (21), Jeremiah Sirles (41), Spencer Long (33)

Starts are in parentheses. Five seniors are gone from an offensive line that helped their team to a Gator Bowl win over Georgia. That's 127 total starts, an extensive amount of experience to replace.

Returning:

There is a fair amount of experience returning largely due to the number of injuries sustained on the offensive line over the course of last season. The number of injuries on the offense was above average (especially considering that they occurred to the top level players), but we should all accept the fact that when very large men smash into each other injuries are a constant.

Jake Cotton - Senior: Cotton was the only non-senior to start the Gator Bowl. He was the starting left guard in 10 of 12 games last season and should be in that same position again this season.

Mark Pelini - Senior: Pelini played in 12 games, starting two and should be considered the lead for the center position.

Ryne Reeves - Junior: Reeves played nine games last season at guard. I'd consider him to earn some starts at the guard position this season.

Mike Moudy - Senior: Started three games last season when he replaced Spencer Long, suffered an injury and missed the final three games. Is out this spring due to surgery.

Zach Sterup - Junior: Sterup played in 11 games with no starts last season.  Sterup was listed as the second string right tackle for the bowl game. 

Givens Price - Junior: Price played in seven games, and was third on the depth chart for the bowl game at right guard.

Matt Finnin - Junior: Played in four games, listed as second on the depth chart for the bowl game and was granted another year

Chongo Kondolo - Junior: JUCO transfer, redshirted last season. Should get into the rotation at center or guard, if only because he has the coolest name since Ndamukong Suh.

Alex Lewis - Junior: Spent two years at Colorado, starting 12 games at left guard in 2012, and played as a tackle and tight end during his freshman season.

David Knevel - Redshirt freshman: Could be in rotation at tackle. 
Adam Kucera - Junior: Did not play in 2013
Paul Thurston - Sophomore: Listed as third on depth chart last season as center. Look for him or Kondolo as #2 at center.

Others Returning:

Sam Hahn
Zach Hannon
Dwayne Johnson, Jr.
Chris Long
Robby Painter
Dylan Utter
Corey Whitaker

Incoming:

I'm a firm believer that lineman won't play as true freshman, and 99% of the time that's true. Lineman need a year to get into the strength and conditioning program and settle into the college ranks. I don't care what they're ranked in recruiting or how good their feet are, they need that year to grow.

If these guys do anything but redshirt this season, it means that there is a serious problem with depth at this position group.

Scholarship:
Tanner Farmer - Projected as guard or center. 

Nick Gates - Projected tackle.

Mick Stoltenberg - Projected tackle.

D.J. Foster - Projected guard.

Walk-Ons:
Conrad Cole
Ryan Freudenberg
Trent Ortmeier

2014 - What To Expect

The good news is that a lot of younger guys received playing experience due to last season's injuries. Maybe that shouldn't be listed as good news as much as "looking forward with optimism" to this year's bunch.

In a word, this group has potential (sticking with that optimism theme). They have some experience, not a lot, and they have some highly recruited players who have yet to really hit their stride.

You have Cotton at one guard spot with Reeves at the other. You have Pelini at center, Sterup at one tackle spot, and let's project Finnin to the other tackle spot. That gives you a starting five with have fairly decently experience with the exception of Finnin.

Rotation - you need to find a solid #2 at center, which could be either Thurston or Kondolo. Backup guards would include Moudy given that he recovers and gets back to full strength by fall, Kondolo, who could play multiple positions, or Lewis, given his experience.

Question is - who will figure in on the tackle rotations? Who's going to be the next guy to be the next Spencer Long, as in that guy who comes out of nowhere (Long was a walk-on) and solidifies his role at that position?

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