Nebraska’s best offensive lineman, Brenden Jaimes, doesn’t talk much with the media. But the senior left tackle who was NU’s offensive MVP last season had a message to share at the start of his final spring.
“Bringing back five starters, there should be absolutely no excuses for anything, really,” Jaimes said. “To have the depth that we have, the competition should be through the roof — as it is right now. Everybody should be competing as if their spot was on the line, including me.”
There are 16 scholarship offensive linemen on campus and many more walk-ons, including Colorado State transfer Nouredin Nouili, who started last season for the Rams.
“Everyone across the board is going to get a lot better,” said senior Matt Farniok, a captain last season. “Whoever the five are going to be, they’re going to be the best five.”
After a season being “half of a step off of each other,” Farniok said Nebraska’s line has to be more “meshed” and “together.”
Jaimes and Farniok got that message from their offensive line coach, Greg Austin.
“If you think they said it just on their own, you’re crazy,” Austin said. “We go into the frickin' meeting room like, ‘Hey boys, what’s our excuse?’ We don’t have a new center, we don’t have new all of this, we got 1,000 guys now, got plenty of reps to go around. You tell me, you turn on this film, what’s going to be your excuse? Don’t want to hear it. Just get the job done.”
The job duties may be shuffling a little bit in 2020.
Farniok, who has started three seasons at right tackle, has worked some at left guard. That’s a big change, Farniok and Austin said, especially from the right-to-left perspective, because it means Farniok is leading with a new step on some of his blocks. On one play Monday, Austin said Farniok’s leg was “flailing” and Austin had to correct it.
If Farniok moves, playing time opens up at right tackle for players like Bryce Benhart and Christian Gaylord, while competition becomes fierce at right guard where Boe Wilson, Trent Hixson, Ethan Piper and more will battle.
Cameron Jurgens is fixed as the starting center, Austin said. Jurgens already had the athleticism, Austin said, but he grew in knowledge and “command presence” as the season wore on. Jurgens also had a better relationship with quarterback Adrian Martinez on the first day of camp, Austin said.
“The game’s slowed down for the guy,” Austin said. “He came to the sideline and actually gave good feedback. Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, it was like ‘Cam, what’d you see?’ ‘Uhh.’ He’d look at me with those confused eyes. First things first, gotta get the ball down. ‘What’d you call?’ You had guys yelling at him on the sideline, ‘I didn’t hear (expletive),' and it’s like, all right guys, calm down. It was a therapy session in front of 90,000 people in Memorial Stadium.
“But then, slowly but surely, it kept coming along.”
Said Farniok: “He’s going to be the guy who’s commanding us. As long as he’s loud and confident, it makes our jobs easier.”