Nebraska offensive line coach John Garrison said he's ready to see senior tackle Andrew Rodriguez fulfill his potential. What might that look like? Garrison said he wants Rodriguez to be the kind of player who can consistently play 80 reps a game, or most of the Huskers' snaps. Rodriguez might have played half that number in most of last season's games.
Garrison said NU will run tempo situations in practice and a Saturday scrimmage to test all of its linemen. He wants Rodriguez, an Aurora grad, to excel in that setting.
“If he's hanging his head on a 12-play drive, he's going to probably have some issues,” Garrison said.
“His conditioning is there. But as you get tired mentally, you get fatigued as well. That's what he's got to work on.”
Nebraska's offensive guard starters seem relatively set: Senior All-America candidate Spencer Long will start at right guard for the third straight year, while junior Jake Cotton gets the nod at left guard.
Who's behind them in the rotation? Garrison said it looks to be junior college transfer Chongo Kondolo, junior Mike Moudy, Crete sophomore Ryne Reeves and sophomore Givens Price.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Reeves sat out most of camp with an ankle injury but Garrison said he's healthier and playing faster now than he did before the injury. Kondolo, from Fresno City (Calif.) Community College, is taking snaps at center and guard and appears to be picking up the offense quickly, Garrison said.
“He's done a great job,” Garrison said. “He's a very good athlete. Every day he's continued to grow and continued to get better. I think he's going to be a natural ... very intelligent football player. Pleasant surprise, how fast he's picked things up.”
Kondolo's also been taking snaps at center. Garrison said he's not making any concrete decisions as to the starting center yet. Senior Cole Pensick is working with the top bunch along with junior Mark Pelini, redshirt freshman Paul Thurston and Kondolo, who's a junior.
“Mark Pelini could be our starter,” Garrison said. “There's nobody with a lead. By any means.”
Joseph: Freshman defensive backs could be in picture
Can any of the Huskers' three true freshman defensive backs help in the secondary? That might be unclear, NU assistant coach Terry Joseph said, but something that won't be ruled out this early in preseason camp.
“I think at a certain point how he progresses is going to tell us: Is he going to play or is he going to redshirt,” Joseph said. “But when I recruit a guy, I never mention redshirting, because I don't know. I expect everybody to come in and play, and if it doesn't work out, then we'll make that decision.”
Joseph and the defensive staff are monitoring the progress of cornerback Boaz Joseph (no relation) and safeties Nathan Gerry and Drake Martinez. They also are a trio of players who could help on special teams.
Right now, Terry Joseph said, “they're playing until they show they can't handle it. Then when they don't, then we'll redshirt them and let them catch up a little bit.”
Dime back competition open to all in the secondary
One other thing that Joseph must do is identify potential sixth defensive backs for the Huskers' dime package, the role Corey Cooper played in the Capital One Bowl and some other games.
Cooper is projected as a starter at safety, where some of the backups likely become candidates.
“Right now every safety's a dime option,” Joseph said. “That's what we told them. What we do know is when we play those teams we want to get the five or six best defensive backs on the field, no matter what their position may be. So the more versatile you are, the better your chance of getting out there.”
Joseph did not name specific backups vying for that dime role. Senior cornerback Ciante Evans returns as the Huskers' nickel back.