Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 10:35 pm / Updated at 11:08 pm
Football
Husker tackles prep for major test against MSU defense

LINCOLN — Nebraska's improving offensive tackles appear to be peaking just in time for their toughest challenge yet.

Junior Jeremiah Sirles, who contributes on the right and left sides, rarely seems to leave the field now that he's starting to master his dual role. Junior Andrew Rodriguez earned his first start of the season at right tackle at Northwestern. And against Michigan, junior Brent Qvale played the best game of his career at left tackle, assistant coach Barney Cotton said.

Problem is, the three Husker tackles are preparing for Saturday's trip to Michigan State, which has a defensive end who can spoil progress and spark regression in a hurry. Matching up against Will Gholston won't be easy, Cotton knows.

“You don't play against too many 6-8, 280-pound guys — he's so long,” Cotton said. “Plus, he can run, too. He's very fast.”

He's especially dangerous as a pass-rusher, which might be the biggest concern for Nebraska.

Qvale and Rodriguez, both guards until last winter, are still learning the tackle position's intricacies and trying to consistently apply those concepts during the rapid-fire moments after a snap. Rodriguez has spoken a few times this season about the importance of footwork in pass blocking.

Sirles, meanwhile, knows his technique principles better than anyone else — but those minor details occasionally get lost when he's flipping between the left and right sides of the line while opposing defensive ends explode toward him.

Ohio State's two senior defensive ends, particularly John Simon, regularly gained the advantage against NU's tackles in one-on-one matchups in passing situations last month. Simon finished the game with five tackles for loss, and he and Nathan Williams collapsed the pocket or at least quite regularly disrupted a play's timing.

Rodriguez said he thinks the group has come a long way since that 63-38 loss on Oct. 6.

BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK
Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.

The extra time that he and his teammates have devoted to watching film and studying scouting reports has helped, according to Rodriguez. That should be the case this week, too.

“If I study enough in the film room, especially on (Gholston's) pass rushes, than I should be OK,” Rodriguez said.

Gholston's not the only focus for NU's offensive tackles.

Sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush has started every game of his career. MSU sends extra defenders toward the quarterback pretty regularly, according to the NU players, which helps explain why linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen have combined for 17 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Cotton said the Spartans' third-down blitz package is “huge.”

The Spartans are averaging just 1.25 sacks per game this year, but they recorded five during last weekend's overtime win at Wisconsin.

NU tackles are “going to get tested with linebackers,” Cotton said. “They're going to get tested with secondary people. And they're going to get tested with starters who have played multiple years — two very experienced defensive ends.”

Contact the writer:

402-473-9585, jon.nyatawa@owh.com; twitter.com/JonNyatawa

* * *

>> Video: See this week's episode of "The Big Red Today Show":



>> Video: See this week's episode of "The Big Ten Preview Show":

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >