Broc Bando

Once spring camp rolled around, Broc Bando has transformed his physique and his approach. “I was going full effort every play instead of worrying about mistakes,” Bando said just before the start of NU’s season. He did not talk this week despite multiple media requests. “I think I was more scared of failing than doing what was actually right. That hindered my development.”

LINCOLN — It happened three hours into a game Nebraska had long secured, but offensive line coach Greg Austin invested as much in that play as any other in the Huskers’ 44-8 win.

Quarterback Noah Vedral rolled to his left — all the way out to the numbers, toward his own sideline — after a run fake. Backpedaling, he completed a pass to Kurt Rafdal.

Six yards away from Vedral, still locked onto his assignment was Broc Bando, the backup left tackle who Austin has exhorted to grow up, and who started his climb up the depth chart in scout team scrimmages. Now, Bando could start his first game Saturday at Illinois.

“The only reason why (Vedral) was able to get the time to do it was because of Broc and his effort on the play,” Austin said. “Things that go unnoticed, but as a coach, you notice it and you make sure you point it out to guys.”

Austin has done a lot of truth telling since Bando, who grew up in Lincoln and finished his high school career at IMG Academy in Florida, arrived at Nebraska under one coaching staff and moved positions in the last year. Those coaching sessions may loom large this weekend as the three-year starter at left tackle, Brenden Jaimes, works through an undisclosed injury that forced him out of the Northern Illinois game.

Jaimes practiced Wednesday, Austin said, though his repetitions were limited. If Jaimes doesn’t play at Illinois, that leaves the redshirt sophomore Bando as one of the last healthy, quality tackles on the team. Behind Bando is true freshman Bryce Benhart. After that, NU may have to move a lineman from another position.

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That’s what happened when Nebraska moved Bando — a 2017 signee along with Jaimes — from guard to center.

“We had to move him because of lack of bodies,” Austin said. He noted that the early departure of Nick Gates to the NFL after the 2017 season left NU’s offensive line a tackle down last season. Austin has replenished the tackle position through recruiting, but four of the tackles are true freshmen and two more, Turner Corcoran and Alex Conn, are part of the 2020 recruiting class.

Bando stepped into the gap. At first, Austin said, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Bando was hard to figure out.

He was on scout team last season, and Austin thought Bando had been allowed to embrace mediocrity under the previous staff. So Austin had to execute a “give-give” where he tried to get to know Bando as well as he could so Bando would respond to coaching.

“I had to push his buttons a little bit,” Austin said. “There’s a little bit of a grit that goes along with it. There’s a little bit of a direct talk, is what I like to call it. ‘Hey, you need to claim your stuff, you need to get it done,’ rather than, ‘Oh, it’s OK.’ I think he was used to getting treated like that. Whereas I know your job, do your job, do it again. That’s the standard. He took well to that.”

The ascension started in Friday scout team scrimmages last fall — conducted in the morning before the starters’ practice. In the offseason, Bando lost weight, Austin said, which was fine. Bando is a “dense,” big-boned player anyway.

Once spring camp rolled around, Bando transformed his physique and his approach.

“I was going full effort every play instead of worrying about mistakes,” Bando said just before the start of NU’s season. “I think I was more scared of failing than doing what was actually right. That hindered my development.”

Not anymore. Austin said no offensive lineman has progressed as much as Bando in the past year. When fifth-year senior and swing tackle Christian Gaylord tore his ACL before the season, Bando was next man up. His number was called when Jaimes went down.

In the course of the game, neither Austin nor Husker starters wanted to make a big deal about Bando coming in. Confidence is expected, demanded.

“Tee it high and let it fly,” Austin said.

And in his first extended appearance, Austin said, Bando did that. He didn’t allow a sack. He physically handled his assignment. He was the next man up. Not a step down.

“He did a damn good job in protection,” Austin said. “Stayed in balance. Knew his plays.”

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