NCAA FOOTBALLL: SEP 15 Arkansas State at Nebraska

2013 Spring Preview: Offensive Line

RETURNING | Brandon Chapek, Sr.; Jake Cotton, Jr.; Scott Criss, Sr.; Garret Johns, RFr.; Adam Kucera, Soph.; Chris Long, Soph.; Spencer Long, Sr.; Mike Moudy, Jr.; Brodrick Nickens, Sr.; Robby Painter, RFr.; Mark Pelini, Jr.; Cole Pensick, Sr.; Givens Price, Soph.; Brent Qvale, Sr.; Ryne Reeves, Soph.; Andrew Rodriguez, Sr.; Will Sailors, Soph.; Jeremiah Sirles, Sr.; Zach Sterup, Soph.; Paul Thurston, RFr.; Dylan Utter, RFr.; Corey Whitaker, RFr.

INCOMING | Matt Finnin, Jr; Dustin Glaser, Fr.; Zach Hannon, Fr.; Dwayne Johnson, Fr.; David Knevel, Fr.*; Chongo Kondolo, Jr.; Landon Kubicek, Fr.; Gabriel Miller, Fr.

*early enrollee

DEPARTING | Justin Jackson, Seung Hoon-Choi

OUTLOOK: It’s tough to argue with an offensive line that helped pave the way for the nation’s eighth-best rushing offense, but there were still a few question marks around line play for the Huskers in 2012. Penalties still seemed to come at the worst times possible and Nebraska allowed 35 sacks last season to rank 11th in the Big Ten. That’s particularly tough to do considering Taylor Martinez’s fleet-footedness so there’s some work to do in 2013.

Nebraska loses one full-time starter in center Justin Jackson and one part-time starter in guard Seung Hoon-Choi. That leaves a veteran corps of seniors in Brent Qvale (LT), Andrew Rodriguez (RT), second-team All-American Spencer Long (RG), Jeremiah Sirles (RT) and Cole Pensick (LG/C). That’s a decent base from which to build but the whole thing likely depends on what happens with Pensick. He played well splitting time with Choi at guard and then arguably played even better in the Capital One Bowl as the starting center. It seems reasonable that he’ll start there allowing Rodriguez to perhaps move back to guard where he started seven games in 2011. Junior Jake Cotton got a lot of time at left guard in the bowl game and he’ll be in the mix there as well. Circle left guard as one of the more intriguing position battles this March.

Behind that group of veterans is a collection of highly touted talent that has yet to work its way into the regular rotation. Ryne Reeves, Zach Sterup, and Mike Moudy were all four-star prospects coming out of high school so, theoretically, there’s plenty of talent available. Reeves looks ready to challenge at either guard or center while Sterup could give Nebraska some depth at tackle. Moudy has yet to dent the depth chart but Mark Pelini (C) and Brodrick Nickens (RG) had both cracked the two-deep by the end of 2012.

Of the five scholarship linemen in the 2013 class, only freshman David Knevel is already on campus. The spring will be very valuable for the Canadian prospect but he’s a definite long shot for immediate playing time. The Huskers do have two junior college prospects entering in Matt Finnin and Chongo Kondolo. For now, Finnin has only two years of eligibility remaining making him an immediate contender for playing time by default. Nebraska has three tackles that started last year back in 2013 but the best chance for an upgrade at that position might be Finnin. Kondolo has three years to play two seasons so Nebraska can take its time with him. Kondolo played tackle at Fresno City College but likely projects as a guard or center for the Huskers.

Zach Hannon and Dwayne Johnson will join in the fall as will a pair of walk-ons (Dustin Glaser, Landon Kubicek), which, given the recent history of Nebraska’s o-line, can’t be discounted.

It’s tough to imagine a much better scenario for John Garrison as he takes over the majority stake as the offensive line coach in 2013. The Huskers have experience, depth, and talent up front which should make for plenty of competition over the next six months.