clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 Nebraska Spring Football Offensive Line Preview

New, 35 comments
David McGee

Gone:

Jake Cotton, Mark Pelini, Mike Moudy

Experienced Returners:

Ryne Reeves, Chongo Kondolo, Givens Price, Alex Lewis, Matt Finnin, Zach Sterup
Paul Thurston, Dylan Utter

Depth:

David Knevel, Nick Gates, Tanner Farmer, Jerald Foster, Zach Hannon

Cole Conrad, Ryan Freudenberg, Sam Hahn, Dwayne Johnson Jr., Chris Long, Robby Painter, Corey Whitaker

Recruits:

Tackle:  Christian Gaylord
Guards: Jalin Barnett, Michael Decker
(I am not including recruits in the analysis below. The only way you get a newly recruited lineman on the field in his first year is if you are seriously lacking in depth or the player is superman. Supermen are rare. Best to give a lineman a year in the strength and conditioning program and to get acclimated to the program.)

Gone are the returning starters from the interior of Nebraska's offensive line. Between them, Jake Cotton, Mark Pelini and Mike Moudy accounted for 50 starts (23, 14, and 13, respectively). That seems like a fair amount of experience to replace and it is, but you can be forgiven if you're not exactly earth-shattered by the loss of these players.

The one consistency of the offensive line in the Bo Pelini era was its inconsistency. One game (2014, Miami, for example) they would look like one of the best offensive lines in the country. Another game they couldn't block a paper bag (2014, Michigan State for three quarters, for example). Unfortunately, the image that will remain with the 2014 offensive line forever is Jake Cotton falling over on his buttocks (no, I'm not posting it here, it's been used enough).

The good news is that Nebraska has a fair amount of experience returning. Two tackles, Alex Lewis and Zach Sterup, have 12 and 10 starts, respectively. Givens Price has started three games at tackle, Ryne Reeves one game at center, and walk-on Dylan Utter started at center in the Holiday Bowl vs USC last season.

The tackle position seemds to be in pretty good shape. Lewis, Sterup, and Price have starting experience. Matt Finnin played in eight games in 2014 and was listed as the starting tackle on the depth chart for the Holiday Bowl.
David Knevel could figure into the rotation. Nick Gates was a highly ranked recruit and is coming off a redshirt and should be ready to compete for playing time.

The center and guard positions are a little more iffy. Chongo Kondolo gained experience last season playing in all 13 games. Utter played hard enough to earn that start, but was listed as a co-#2 with Paul Thurston and sophomore Zach Hannon after both Mark Pelini and Reeves were injured. Utter, Reeves, and Hannon are all capable of playing both center and guard. Hannon and Thurston spent time as a special teams blockers last season. Tanner Farmer was a highly regarded recruit, is coming off of a redshirt, and should be expected to earn a fair amount of playing time this season. Jerald Foster is another redshirt freshman at guard to keep an eye on.

There is a good core to for new offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh to work with. Cavanaugh comes to Nebraska with 27 years of coaching experience, nearly all of it as an offensive line coach. He was offered the same position at USC and Alabama within the past two seasons, yet chose to remain with Mike Riley at Oregon State, and then moved with Riley to Nebraska.

Don't expect the blocking schemes to change much. Zone blocking is zone blocking at whatever level you're playing, as are inside and outside zone plays. What would be a nice change is for Cavanaugh to find guards/centers who are capable of pulling in man blocking; that seems to have been an art lost along with the use of tight ends recently.

Play calling terminology will most likely be changing, so all linemen will be starting from scratch in that regard. Those that earn starts and time in rotation might not be the best athletes, but those that are disciplined enough to get the play calls correct. In other words, those that have bought into the new regime.

The skill position guys (quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers) get the fame (and the girls), but Nebraska fans know better than most - it's the offensive linemen who make or break an offense. The Huskers should field a pretty decent offensive line and have depth to go along with it.

This article completes the offensive review. It's hard not to have a good feeling about Nebraska's offense at this point, but that feeling should have been the same whether the coaching staff was changed or not.

Projected (Guess) Post Spring Depth Chart

Left Tackle: Alex Lewis, David Knevel
Left Guard: Tanner Farmer, Zach Hannon
Center: Ryne Reeves, Dylan Utter
Right Guard: Chongo Kondolo*
Right Tackle: Zach Sterup, Givens Price

*Chongo Kondolo will require no backup. Ever.