Greg Austin still searching for starters at center and left guard, but loves depth of Husker OL

Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin mentioned redshirt freshmen Will Farniok, AJ Forbes and Cameron Jurgens and sophomore walk-ons Trent Hixson and Hunter Miller among the options at center. 

LINCOLN — The best potential aspect of Nebraska’s 2019 offensive line, position coach Greg Austin said Tuesday night on the Husker Sports Network, is its depth. NU might have enough size, experience and talent to have the genuine “two-deep” that Austin wants and Nebraska lacked last season.

Austin proved that in a “Sports Nightly” interview by rattling off several contenders for the open center and left guard jobs vacated by departed seniors Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster.

Of course, where there are a lot of contenders, a starter hasn’t been identified. Austin will look for definitive answers, especially in training camp, for those two spots.

“All are good young men, and all have a desire to excel,” Austin said. “That’s where it begins.”

Austin mentioned redshirt freshmen Will Farniok, AJ Forbes and Cameron Jurgens and sophomore walk-ons Trent Hixson and Hunter Miller among the options at center. Jurgens, the Beatrice native who seemed to come out of spring camp as a favorite, needs to stay healthy, Austin said.

“Cam has dealt with a few health issues, but I’ll tell you, whenever he’s healthy, he’s a force to be reckoned with,” Austin said.

Hixson has earned his way onto the two-deep. Forbes “has done everything we’ve asked him” and had a strong spring. Farniok has improved his “command presence” among teammates and has been “growing physically” because he was “underweight” when he arrived last year. Both Will and Matt Farniok, his older brother, do well in the weight room.

Hixson is a likely front-runner at left guard, though Austin said junior John Raridon has a chance to emerge after improving his pass blocking in the spring.

“He’s going to run through your butt in the run game, but protection, that was where he really needed to improve,” Austin said.

That group of players will be added to three more established starters in tackles Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok and right guard Boe Wilson. Matt Farniok and Wilson are the vocal leaders of the room, while Jaimes, quieter, leads in his own way, Austin said.

“Boe always brings that brass,” Austin said. “You’re always going to get his strongest, toughest shot.”

More notes:

  • Sophomore Matt Sichterman has moved to guard, while Austin is interested in potentially moving senior Christian Gaylord to right tackle, where he can back up Matt Farniok. Gaylord was “more down and out” when Austin and the rest of NU coach Scott Frost’s staff arrived, Austin said, and has since grown in confidence.

“We feel like he’s an ‘arrow up’ guy,” Austin said of Gaylord.

  • Sophomore Broc Bando has lost weight and surprised coaches with his progress at tackle.

“He has a figure,” Austin said. “He’s showing the fruits of his labor in the weight room. And all that stuff is showing up on the field.”

  • True freshman right tackle Bryce Benhart “has all the measurables” to play either this season or next season. Austin said Benhart’s availability will be determined by how quickly he learns NU’s scheme and, more importantly, learns from his mistakes.
  • True freshman guard Michael Lynn has a “unique background in football” in that he understands the sport at a high level and understands weight lifting. He’s trained at all three positions, Austin said.

“It was a very easy and smooth transition for him to learn the scheme, learn the position,” Austin said.

  • Norfolk Catholic’s Ethan Piper will start his career at center. Austin said he liked the work ethic and vocal nature of Piper.
  • Freshman offensive tackles Matthew Anderson and Jimmy Fritzsche continue to gain weight, work hard and show a strong attitude. Fritzsche “walks around with a very serious demeanor” and will be “a real dude” in a few years.

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