Cameron Jurgens

Nebraska center Cameron Jurgens (51) was back at full speed this week following an undisclosed injury. 

LINCOLN — The big guy from Beatrice got healthy just in time.

Redshirt freshman center Cam Jurgens, previously limited in training camp due to an undisclosed injury, was back at full speed this week, coach Scott Frost said, and now appears headed for the No. 1 spot on the NU depth chart. Jurgens had appeared to hold the spot in spring practice before a summer injury setback threw the starting role into question.

“We look a little different with Cam Jurgens back and full speed now,” Frost said. “We’ve got to keep him healthy, but I think he’s going to be a game-changer for us on the inside.”

Frost said Nebraska would release its depth chart Sunday or Monday and cautioned fans and media against reading too much into it. He said he doesn’t like putting currently injured or oft-injured players at the top of the depth chart over players who’d contributed more in camp “sweating and working.” Reporters twice saw Jurgens suited up for practice but not taking part in key drill work. That changed Monday when BTN cameras rolled into town and captured Jurgens going live.

So expect Jurgens to be at the top ahead of fellow redshirt freshman Will Farniok, who has a “bright future” in the program, according to Frost. Ethan Piper, AJ Forbes and Josh Wegener also received praise. Four of the five are freshmen; none of the five has taken a live game snap as Nebraska’s center.

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Jurgens committed after his freshman year of high school to play at Nebraska and was recruited to play tight end. He even played a game last season in that role before Frost personally oversaw his move to center last fall, telling offensive line coach Greg Austin that Jurgens had the talent to be the next Dave Rimington, the two-time Outland Trophy winner.

“That’s a big name to throw out,” Austin said last fall, “and when he threw it out, I was like, ‘C’mon, Coach. That’s Dave Rimington, now.’ ”

Jurgens missed the rest of last season after breaking his foot in October. He worked at center this spring and generally took snaps with the No. 1 offense. Austin said Jurgens skipped his spring break to remain in Lincoln, watching film and asking questions daily of Austin.

“I think they really believe in me,” Jurgens said in the spring. “I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and listening to them.”

Given Jurgens’ spotty history in terms of health — he was banged up at times in high school, too — Farniok and Piper would appear to be next in line at center. The 6-3, 295-pound Farniok, the younger brother of right tackle Matt Farniok, was recruited specifically for the role, while Piper, a 6-4, 300-pound Norfolk Catholic graduate, ostensibly arrived as a defensive line recruit. He quickly moved to center and earned praise from coaches for his progress. Forbes, a 6-4, 310-pound walk-on from Bellevue West, also has earned praise.

But it appears Jurgens, set apart back last fall to compete for the role, will get first crack at it against South Alabama. Aside from multiyear starters Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok at tackle, it’s a mostly inexperienced unit. Boe Wilson is a fourth-year junior who has started nine career games. Jurgens — or any other center — hasn’t started any games. Neither has sophomore left guard Trent Hixson, who on Friday received a scholarship from coaches. The Omaha Skutt graduate had spent his first two seasons on campus as a walk-on.

“He’s really the first one in a long line of walk-ons, while I’m here, that comes in, goes to work and becomes a guy who plays or starts for us,” Frost said. “He deserves this.”

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