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Sirles Sees Improvement on the D-Line

If you want to know about Nebraska’s new and largely unknown defensive line, the best place to go in August is the offensive line. They’re the ones who have to deal with the Huskers’ crop of new talent on a daily basis.

Offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles, who’s earning some preseason all-conference buzz headed into his senior season, spoke with reporters this week about what he’s seen from the Huskers’ front four so far in fall camp.

In certain cases, the faces aren’t all that new to him.

“We blocked a lot of those faces on scout team last year and where they’ve come, from spring to fall, is leaps and bounds. Those guys have really stepped up because they know we really need them,” Sirles said.

That feeling intensified last week when it was revealed that defensive tackle Kevin Williams will miss the 2013 season with a knee injury. Williams only appeared in five games last year, but that qualified as experienced on Nebraska’s young defensive line headed into this season.

Defensive end Avery Moss and defensive tackles Aaron Curry and Vincent Valentine — three players Sirles singled out as having improved over the off-season — have a combined seven games of experience between them. Moss and Curry were both good enough to forego redshirt years, but injuries kept them from contributing in Big Ten play last season. Valentine took a redshirt year and spent last season on the scout team.

And with plenty of playing time to be had this fall, that’s provided an additional source of motivation for the returning defensive linemen that maybe wasn’t there last year.

“There’s a lot of positions open and a lot of places for playing time,” Sirles said. “That’s why everyone comes here. Nobody comes to play scout team.

“Those guys have kind of had to grow up quickly, but I think they’ve handled it really well.”

One player who definitely won’t be on the scout team is junior defensive end Randy Gregory. As one of the most highly sought after junior college transfers in the 2013 class, Gregory has been the recipient of some eye-popping praise this fall camp. There’s a reason for that.

“He’s a fast kid. He reminds me a lot of some of the Big 12 defensive ends we’ve played and even some SEC guys with his speed,” Sirles said. “If he can figure out the system that we’ve got going, and Coach Kaz is doing a great job of coaching him up, I think he can make a big impact.”

And how have those match-ups between Gregory, the speed rusher, and Sirles, the NFL-sized tackle, gone in practice.

“He does a great job,” Sirles said and left it at that.