Nebraska's Shrinking Offensive Line
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska’s Shrinking Offensive Line

December 27, 2017

Nebraska’s offensive line recruits are getting lighter, falling below the average weight of the rest of its Power 5 counterparts.

According to Scout.com's recruiting database, the Huskers’ 39 offensive line recruits from 2004 to 2010 weighed an average of 295 pounds. That average tied for 14th among Power 5 schools.

Compare that weight to Nebraska’s most recent offensive line recruits, and the Huskers find themselves near the bottom of the rankings when it comes to size.

From 2011 to 2017, the Huskers’ 26 offensive line recruits weighed an average of 283 pounds—which ranks 53rd among 64 Power 5 schools.

That 12-pound decrease in average weight is tied for the biggest drop among Power 5 schools. Rutgers had the same decrease.

Six Big Ten schools had some sort of increase in average weight of offensive line recruits when comparing the two time spans, including Indiana and Michigan, who had increases of 15 and 14 pounds respectively. Those jumps in average weight ranked second and third amongst all Power 5 schools.

Both programs’ offensive line recruits from 2011 to 2017 outweighed Nebraska’s average by at least nine pounds.

The average weight of offensive line recruits for the current 130 FBS schools was 287 pounds from 2004 to 2010 and 288 pounds from 2011 to 2017. That means Nebraska went from eight pounds above the national average to five pounds below.

That difference in weight of offensive line recruits may have an affect on how a team performs in the run game once they see the field—an area of the game Nebraska has struggled in recently.

FootballOutsiders.com records statistics that rate the performance of each FBS schools’ offensive line. One of those stats is opportunity rate, meaning the percent of carries that gain at least 5 yards when 5 yards are available. In other words, when the offensive line “does its job.”

Nine of the top-15 Power 5 schools in opportunity rate for 2017 also ranked inside the top-15 in average weight of offensive line recruits from 2011 to 2017. Coincidence? Perhaps.

However, Nebraska ranked 57th among Power 5 schools with an opportunity rate of just 33.8 percent in 2017, and as stated earlier, it ranked 53rd in average weight of offensive line recruits from 2011 to 2017.

From the point of Nebraska’s first national championship in 1970 to its most recent in 1997, Nebraska’s dominant offensive line was known as the Pipeline.

Although they may not have been as big as today’s college football offensive linemen, the Huskers’ still produced 25 All-Americans from that unit.

From 1998 to the present, they’ve had just three.

Fans of Nebraska football have been calling for a restoration of the once powerful offensive unit for nearly 20 years. In an attempt to adapt to the size and power of today’s game, the new Huskers’ staff may want to look for more weight in their offensive line recruits.

The average weight of Nebraska’s current offensive linemen when they were recruits was 281 pounds—two pounds less than the Huskers’ overall average from 2011 to 2017.

Its latest offensive line recruit, Will Farniok of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, weighs just 250 pounds, but an increase in size on the offensive front may come from a three-star lineman out of Atlanta, Georgia.

Our own Greg Smith lists Hamilton Hall (6’6, 320) as one of five unsigned offensive players to watch in the 2018 class.

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