The Cornhusker offensive line will be much improved this season. If we're going to be a championship team (whether Big 12 or National), the offensive line is where it's going to have to start. You can have all the Reggie Bush's you want in the backfield, and all the Vince Young's taking the snaps but if they don't have those big guys in front of them doing the job, they aren't getting far and they'll probably get killed in the process.
LT: Carl Nicks
LG: Andy Christensen
C: Brett Byford
RG: Matt Slauson (injured, may miss Nevada), Mike Huff
RT: Lydon Murtha
An item to remember: this Nebraska coaching staff doesn't designate someone a starter and leave them in a starting position throughout the season. The offensive line is evaluated on a weekly basis and whomever does the best that week gets the start. It keeps the competition going. Not a bad way to do things.
Another item to remember: Bill Callahan's coaching staff - with Kevin Wagner as offensive line coach - rotates linemen through different positions. For example, though Brett Byford and Victory Haines may be designated the starting and reserve centers, don't be surprised to see the line positions shuffle around with Christensen moving to center, and Huff taking over a guard position.
Nebraska's offensive line experience:
- Brett Byford, Senior - has started 12 games
- Mike Huff, Junior has started 13 games.
- Matt Slauson, Junior, has started 14 games.
- Lydon Murtha, Junior, has started five games.
- Andy Christensen, Junior, has started five games.
- Carl Nicks, Senior, has started twice.
- Jacob Hickman, Sophomore has started once.
Others that stand to make an impact:
Senior Victory Haines - most likely is reserve center, 6' 7", 290 pound frame should allow him to play other positions as well.
Figure Jacob Hickman to get into the rotation as he did last year.
Then you have other guys who redshirted last year who should see some playing time this season. If you look at this group from the right angle, you see an entire offensive line unit - one that has time to learn and grow, although I'm not sure a couple of them need to get any bigger. Given the number of Seniors the Huskers will lose this season, it's important that these guys get into the mix and make the offensive line the strength of the team for years to come.
- DJ Jones, 6-5, 310, RFr. Jones is from Omaha Central. We should see him in the tackle rotation.
- Mike Smith, 6-6, 285, RFr, another reserve tackle from Las Vegas.
- Keith Williams, 6-5, 310, RFr - Reserve guard. Played in the spring while Huff and Christensen were injured.
- Cruz Barrett, 6-4, 325, RFr. - Reserve Guard. A huge reserve guard.
- Dennis Bergland, 6-1, 290 RFr, another reserve guard from Plattsmouth.
Freshman Offensive Lineman
Who we'll hopefully redshirt to give them a year to learn, build strength and agility:
Mike Caputo, 6-1, 265, Fr - listed as a center
Jaivorio Burkes, 6-5, 315, Fr
Cory Iske, 6-2, 260 Fr
Marcel Jones, 6-7, 300, Fr
Mike Masin, 6-6, 320 Fr
Ethan Valburg, 6-2, 265, Fr
The Bottom Line
We have a good set of offensive lineman. Saturday we'll find out if they pass the eyeball test, although I don't think we have to worry about motivation from this group. There is enough depth that they can push each other for playing time throughout the season. We have enough experience and depth so that we're not demolished if a regular starter goes down with an injury, which is more likely due to the 12-game season.
It'll be interesting to see how many of these guys get to play against Nevada. Hopefully the offense will click well enough that our redshirt freshman will see significant time.