Strongest Offensive Line in Years?

The 2000 offensive line was one to remember.  The interior featured Dominic Raiola, Toniu Fonoti, and Russ Hochstein.  Raiola and Hochstein had All-American seasons and Fonoti was a All-Big 12 (attaining All-American status a year later).  Since then, there have been a few standouts, but mostly an unspectacular group.  For the first time since 2000, the Huskers go into a season with a returning consensus first team all-conference player in Spencer Long and a second team all-conference tackle in Jeremiah Sirles.  There is starting experience at every position. 

 

Starting left tackle Brent Qvale returns.  Centers Cole Pensick and Mark Pelini return and former starting guard and top reserve tackle Andrew Rodriguez is coming back.  Additional experience returns at guard with Jake Cotton and with guard/tackle Brandon Thompson.  The Huskers may get more from standout interior line prospect Ryne Reeves and walk-on Broderick Nickens who cracked the depth chart a year ago.  


Beyond that group, Paul Thurston and Corey Whitaker will come off of their redshirt years.  Juco transfer Matt Finnin (assuming he signs with Nebraska in the next two weeks) won't have a redshirt year available and could join the mix immediately.  Early arriving freshman David Knevel will have a spring practice under his belt.  You'd expect a redshirt from prospect Zach Hannon.  
Other names in the program may emerge that have previously been quiet.  That includes scholarship players like Zach Sterup, Nick Ash, Mike Moudy, and Givens Price and a number of veteran walk-ons.


Combine that with a returning veteran at quarterback and you'd expect the offense to continue to dominate and perhaps even reach new heights.  The line could be the critical ingredient if the Huskers are to repeat as division champions.  Some key losses on the defensive line for opposing Big Ten teams could create a nice advantage for NU up front.  It won't be the 2000 line, but it might be a good deal better than any we've seen in a while.    

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I agree with you, Steve. Broadly speaking, the group has the potential to be the best total collection of OL talent NU has had in several years.

I’m particularly interested to see what Cole Pensick can do at center. If he’s as good as he was against Georgia, then the NU interior could be strong. NU obviously has really good guard play already.

The only nagging issue is at tackle. Let’s be honest - losing Moore last year created a hole. When the line struggled in losses last year, it was with edge rushers especially coming from the offensive left side. Can a newcomer help? Thurston and Sterup are built for the job. The coaches don’t recruit JC players unless they intend for them to play. So, Finnin is obviously worth watching too.

Additional experience returns at guard with Jake Cotton and with guard/tackle Brandon Thompson. ???

Brandon Thompson graduated

I feel like the title of this post is something that I hear every year in some form or another on various message boards, websites, or newspapers

Long is regarded by some as one of the 25 best players in the league. That’s a solid starting point!

http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/70352/big-ten-rankings-no-22-spencer-long

New in the last few hours - Nick Ash has graduated. He has a fifth season left, but will not pursue it. He’s done with football, it appears.

Great!  If he isn’t going to contribute meaningfully on the field, then free up the scholly for someone else.

Congrats to Nick on graduating.

bebo says; the linemen need to kick it in the hind end when in the weight room. Stronger, quicker and yes, more disciplined with the football will be the only way this team gets to the rose bowl this coming year.

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