Glancing through the Husker's roster of offensive linemen, a pattern begins to emerge involving redshirt players and walk ons. Before Tyler Moore decided to leave the program, he was only one of two players who did not redshirt in their first year of the program. The other, Andrew Rodriguez, will compete for a starting spot at left guard or left tackle. It is no surprise that a red shirt built up the strength and game knowledge of a player for an extra year. It may be the difference in depth the Huskers need. But a surprise is how many walk on and former walk on players will contribute important time in 2012.
Three former walk on offensive linemen were granted scholarships for their efforts. For Spencer Long, Bo Pelini had already indicated that this was coming. The Junior started every game in 2011 at guard, and made a number of preseason watch and accolades lists. But for Seung Hoon Choi and Justin Jackson, it was a surprise. Choi will surely see time on the field to spell Rodriguez, and Jackson is battling hard at the center position logjam.
Of the 26 listed players still on the roster, 11 are current or former walk on players, and 25 have been or will likely be red-shirted this year. This is critical for depth in case of injury, and even that second half push to wear down opposing defensive lines. The larger pool allows someone to step into roles and the chance to perform at a high level. Now that Moore is gone, only 3 players have started at any point. However, 8 players have been in the offensive line rotation, some for entire seasons of backup roles.
Yes, Choi, Long, Rodriguez will play because they started before. But Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles, Jake Cotton, Cole Pensick, are other contributing players that will continue to add depth as they have in the past. Some new guy names that will come to be recognized could be Justin Jackson, Brandon Thompson, Mike Moudy, or Brandon Chapek. They have earned accolades and mentions over the spring and summer, and some have had to step up because of an injury. It is important for the next guy in line to bring the same level of effort as the first.
This is not the pipeline. The big guys do not just come in, play their games, and leave. Offensive linemen are being built by a process here. This is an O-Line factory, mass-producing the type of player needed for the system. The team within a team is being trained to recognize the part each one has to play on the field, more than just knocking down the defensive lineman or linebacker in front of them. If it is truly the case that the work to clean up some of the little issues is successful, than this position group is one that will come to impress the whole of the conference by the end of the season.