McKewon: Five takes on Nick Gates declaring for the NFL draft

Nebraska's Nick Gates was a three-year starter for the Huskers.

Nebraska left tackle Nick Gates declared for the NFL draft on Tuesday. Five takes on the departure of a three-year starter from NU’s lineup and where the Huskers go next.

» Gates arguably played his best football as a redshirt freshman right tackle, and the switch to left tackle never seemed to suit him. Gates was an aggressive, physical run blocker on the right side. He played well there in 2015 while Alex Lewis manned left tackle. When Gates moved to left tackle, he battled injuries in 2016 and never seemed comfortable after getting blitzed by Tennessee’s Derek Barnett in the Music City Bowl. Gates struggled at times in 2017. NU’s whole offensive line did, and right tackle was a grease fire for the first half of the season.

» Make no assumptions about who starts — at any position — on NU’s offensive line. In the old offense, the Huskers lacked true offensive tackles. In the new offense, maybe existing tackles fit the job, or maybe an interior lineman does. Gates, based on his performance in 2017, wasn’t guaranteed anything. Would any lineman be?

» Nebraska will sign at least one offensive tackle in the 2018 class. Could the Huskers go juco? Yes, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. New offensive line coach Greg Austin likely wants to have some tackles he thinks fit NU’s new system to a T. Since linemen take time to develop, a junior college option wouldn’t be a bad fit. Offensive line attrition may not be over before the 2018 season. While every scholarship Husker likely comes into spring camp looking for a fresh start, NU’s roster, as currently composed, has a lot of centers and guards and no tackles. As that group of guys gets older, they may want to play more than they have.

» Gates will have a shot at the next level, but he has to get more consistent and find the right position. At this point, he’s not ahead of Lewis, who was drafted in 2016 and moved to guard. Gates is probably headed to the interior.

» One more NFL decision? Yes. It’s coming from receiver Stanley Morgan. Nebraska could use him more than Tanner Lee or Gates. It’s a big one. Which way will Morgan lean?

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