December 2, 2022

Why all eyes will be on Nebraska’s offensive line

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska Cornhuskers players look to the sideline as the third quarter ends during a NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Joshua A. Bickel/Pool via Ohio State Athletics)

If there’s one position group that has struggled throughout the Scott Frost era, it’s the big boys up front.

Frost was the last Husker quarterback to lead the program to a National Title. The ‘Big Uglies’ that blocked for him were arguably the best unit in the country. Fast forward 23 years later and that extraordinary pipeline has completely dried up. Nebraska hasn’t had an offensive linemen drafted since 2016 and Big Red Nation needs a spark from the unit to create change.

Saturday’s open scrimmage will be the first time Husker fans are allowed back in Memorial Stadium in nearly 17 months. Anxiety has been high for the players, staff and fans because the program is coming off three-straight losing seasons for the first time since the late 1950s.

The rebuilding project for Frost’s alma mater has turned out to be tougher than initially expected. Now improvement is vital entering year four for the 46-year old coach. It’s mind-boggling, because Frost’s system should be humming by now with all of his recruits finally on the roster.

Regardless of the matter, the offensive line play continues to be an issue. From all the false starts, to the bad snaps, it hasn’t been pretty by any means for the unit. It helps when players have experience, production and leadership. However, the Huskers’ offensive line will be one of the youngest groups on the team again this fall.

Two-year starting center Cameron Jurgens has now become the veteran of the bunch. Frost once upon a time called him the next Dave Rimington, which put a microscope on Jurgens’ jersey. He has struggled mightily snapping the ball for the past two years.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez caught a lot of heat for the offensive woes, but it put him at a disadvantage when he had to think about the snap and where the blitz was coming from. Despite the growing pains up front, Jurgens and the rest of the unit started to turn the corner towards the end of last season.

A light bulb turned on for the group down in the trenches. That was evident in Nebraska’s win in the season finale at Rutgers. Alongside Jurgens on the offensive line, the Huskers started a true freshman at left tackle, plus a sophomore and two other freshmen. Nebraska racked up a season-high, 620 total yards, including 365 on the ground.

It was the first time Martinez was able to operate behind a group that had a dominating performance. Not to mention it showed the group’s potential, even if it was against the lowly Scarlet Knights. When the line is able to thrive the rest of the offense feeds off that energy, which leads to explosive plays.

In hindsight, it’s looking more like the Huskers are only going to go as far as their offensive line can take them this fall. The Big Ten is physical and this year’s schedule didn’t do the Huskers no favors. Still, the best fans in the land are hoping to see big signs of improvement this weekend.

Although Frost might run a vanilla playbook, it’ll go a long way if the offensive line can play in sync. Communication, passion and physicality leads to pancakes, plus it never hurts to add a little nastiness.

Potential recruits will also be in the building, so the Huskers need to take advantage of the opportunity and show out.