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2020 Nebraska Football Preview: Offensive Line

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The Huskers return all five starters and have some promising youngsters toiling in the weight room. So, why aren’t fans more optimistic?

Wisconsin v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Unless otherwise specified, references to a class (freshman, sophomore, etc.) are that player’s status for the 2020 season.

2019 Rewind

The 2019 offensive line was a study in contrasts. Experienced tackles and one guard bookended the line. Inside, one guard position was up for grabs and the presumed front-runner for center was an injured, converted tight end with athleticism to spare but a lack of positional experience (at any level).

For every game of 2019 the starting line (L to R) was: Brendan Jaimes - Trent Hixson - Cameron Jurgens - Boe Wilson - Matt Farniok

Most of us were a bit nervous about the lack of experience at center and the first game of 2019 confirmed that as high snaps made life difficult for quarterback Adrian Martinez (Husker Mike gave the line an “F” for that performance). The woes continued to a point that much of Husker nation was clamoring for a change in the middle.

As the season progressed, the line did seem to patch the holes and looked like a more cohesive group, until AJ Epenesa became a one-man wrecking crew in the final game vs Iowa. The fact that Dedrick Mills started to find his stride rushing the ball as the season went on is probably at least partially due to improvements up front.

Significant Reserve Contributors

Prior to the 2019 season, one of the projected top backup tackles, senior Christian Gaylord, suffered a season-ending knee injury. As if that wasn’t enough, Gaylord also tragically lost his father to a car accident during the season. The coaches made it clear they intended to apply for an extra year of eligibility and he is currently listed on the Husker football roster as a senior.

Redshirt freshman Bryce Benhart spent the season as the #2 right tackle, but a redshirt was always in the cards for him and his playing time was limited. He has tremendous upside and likely to hang on to a spot on the two-deep.

After Gaylord’s injury, Broc Bando (junior) ascended to the reserve left tackle spot and saw some action when Jaimes was injured and at the end of some games. Bando can also play guard as he did replace left guard Trent Hixson in the Minnesota embarrassment.

The backup guards were senior John Raridon (left) and junior Matt Sichterman (right). Raridon has since retired from football to focus on his academic studies.

Sophomore Will Farniok was the #2 center all of 2019 and saw time in a few games. It had to be difficult for him to go through summer work and fall camp as the top center only to have Jurgens heal and overtake him for the top spot. It had to be even tougher to see Jurgens struggle and the coaches stick with him. (Mostly trying to point out that he must be a team player to handle that situation and stick around - a skill position player might not have done that.)

Fast Forward to 2020

[Siren Sounds] Incoming

One of the jewels of the recruiting class was freshman Turner Corcoran, a four-star offensive tackle recruit. Listed at 6’6” and 285 lbs, he is almost certainly destined for a redshirt season to fill out his frame. But, with the Huskers graduating three tackles off the projected two-deep in 2020, he will likely find a significant place in the rotation for 2021.

The other incoming scholarship offensive lineman is also a tackle, Alex Conn, a three-star. FYI: UglyDog projects him as a guard at Nebraska.

The walk-on freshman include Bladen Bayless (Beatrice, Neb.), Keegan Menning (Fremont, Neb.), Eli Simonson (Fremont, Neb.), Xavier Trevino (Lincoln, Neb.)

Also new to the Husker roster is Nouredin Nouili who transferred to Nebraska from Colorado State. He has starting experience at guard at CSU and will redshirt 2020 while he sits out due to his transfer.

Depth Chart Projection

If the 2019 line continues to be the 2020 line, the Huskers would be starting a senior (Jaimes, 33 starts), junior (Hixson, 12 starts), sophomore (Jurgens, 12 starts), senior (Wilson, 21 starts) and senior (Farniok, 28 starts).

Tackles

The entire two-deep returns. Gaylord and Benhart seem likely to be the reserve tackles, although an injury at this position could see Bando back on the two-deep. A wildcard is if Gaylord’s knee is not healing well or the injury has reduced his ability to play at a high level.

Names to watch - two offensive tackles saw the field as true freshman in 2019 (both are now redshirt freshman). Benhart, and Brant Banks.

Guard/Center

Wilson seems locked in at right guard, but Trent Hixson had some rough moments at times. While I expect he will start spring ball at the top spot, this is a place I could see as being less settled than some of the others. Two sources of competition could be Broc Bando (he might look for playing time inside if the tackles all remain healthy) and Junior Matt Sichterman who was the #2 right guard for all of 2019. He played in every game (special teams) and got offensive snaps in two games.

Will Farniok also seems like a lock for the #2 center spot, but either injuries or performance issues at guard could see him get a look there.

Names to watch - Ethan Piper (guard/center) was one of the three 2019 true freshman to find his way onto the field. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, he could push for more time on the field. Junior Hunter Miller and sophomore AJ Forbes (guard/center) did not appear in a game in 2019, but were both on the Husker travel roster for several away games.

I’m sure I missed a few names here and there, but these are your likely contributors for 2020. Let me know if I missed someone you think could push for playing time this year!

Roster

Nebraska Offensive Line 2020

Number Name Height Weight Class Hometown
Number Name Height Weight Class Hometown
51 Cameron Jurgens 6-3 285 So. Beatrice, Neb. / Beatrice
52 AJ Forbes 6-4 310 So. Bellevue, Neb. / West
53 Riley Moses 6-2 305 R-Fr. Fairmont, Neb. / Fillmore Central
54 Bryce Benhart 6-9 295 R-Fr. Lakeville, Minn. / Lakeville North
56 Boe Wilson 6-3 300 Sr. Lee's Summit, Mo. / Lee's Summit West
57 Ethan Piper 6-4 300 R-Fr. Norfolk, Neb. / Norfolk Catholic
58 Josh Wegener 6-2 310 Jr. Algona, Iowa / Algona
59 Ian Boerkircher 6-6 260 So. Aurora, Neb. / Nebraska-Kearney/Aurora
65 Christian Gaylord 6-6 310 Sr. Baldwin City, Kan. / Baldwin City
66 Hunter Miller 6-4 320 Jr. Stromsburg, Neb. / Cross County
67 Garrett Nuss 6-5 240 R-Fr. Sutton, Neb. / Sutton
68 Will Farniok 6-3 295 So. Sioux Falls, S.D. / Washington
70 Matt Sichterman 6-4 315 Jr. Cincinnati, Ohio / Kings
71 Matt Farniok 6-6 335 Sr. Sioux Falls, S.D. / Washington
72 Matthew Anderson 6-6 255 R-Fr. Leesville, La. / Leesville
73 Broc Bando 6-5 310 Jr. Lincoln, Neb. / IMG Academy
74 Brant Banks 6-7 300 R-Fr. Houston, Texas / Westbury Christian
75 Trent Hixson 6-4 310 Jr. Omaha, Neb. / Skutt Catholic
76 Brenden Jaimes 6-6 300 Sr. Austin, Texas / Lake Travis
77 Michael Lynn 6-6 290 R-Fr. Greenwood Village, Colo. / Cherry Hills
78 Jimmy Fritzsche 6-7 275 R-Fr. Greenville, S.C. / Greenville
79 Noah Stafursky 6-4 330 R-Fr. York, Neb. / York
Bladen Bayless 6-3 260 Fr. Beatrice, Neb. / Beatrice
Alex Conn 6-6 280 Fr. Derby, Kan. / Derby
Turner Corcoran 6-6 285 Fr. Lawrence, Kan. / Free State
Keegan Menning 6-4 310 Fr. Fremont, Neb. / Fremont
Nouredin Nouili 6-4 285 So. Frankfurt, Germany / Norris HS/Colorado State
Eli Simonson 6-5 260 Fr. Fremont, Neb. / Archbishop Bergan
Xavier Trevino 6-1 275 Fr. Lincoln, Neb. / Southeast