Nebraska has quite a few question marks on the offensive line for 2019. One of the biggest: Who starts at center? It’s a question that came up in Derek Peterson’s evaluation of the offensive line but the answer is one that will take some time this offseason.
It’s not just the center position that will be one to watch either. It’s one of four positions on the line that could be up for grabs this offseason, so there’s a lot of work (and evaluation) ahead for offensive line coach Greg Austin.
While the questions cannot necessarily be answered now, Austin did get to work during the early signing period building a strong group of offensive line targets. He signed four on Wednesday — Bryce Benhart, Matthew Anderson, Jimmy Fritzsche and Michael Lynn — and still holds a verbal commitment from junior college prospect Desmond Bland (although it’s hard to say if he’ll make it to Lincoln or not at this point).
Coach Scott Frost was happy with the offensive line signees Nebraska got and gave Austin a lot of credit for it at his press conference on Wednesday.
“Coach Austin fights for his group in recruiting as much as anybody on this staff,” Frost said. “He wants to get his group right. He takes a lot of pride in that. I love the group that we brought in and Coach Austin did a great job with it.”
So, how about the potential for those four offensive linemen signees? Let’s take a quick look at each and what they bring to Nebraska in 2019 and beyond.
4-star OT Bryce Benhart
6-foot-8, 303 pounds | Lakeville, Minnesota
Other offers: Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, UCLA (and plenty more)
What to know: He’s one of Greg Smith’s top 5 “Greg’s Guys” for the early signing period. A big reason for that is his size and tenacity, which makes him a candidate to start early in his career. In fact, he could be a Day 1 starter because of that size and tenacity. That's still a bold prediction because it's not often freshmen are ready to make that jump, but the opportunity will be there for Benhart.
Benhart’s wrestling background should help in his transition to the college game, and he’s likely going to become an early leader for the offensive line. There’s a lot to like about Benhart with an offensive line looking to answer quite a few questions.
Frost: “Bryce Benhart is as big a kid as I’ve ever recruited, and not only that but he’s a great kid and a really good athlete, an elite wrestler.”
3-star OT Matthew Anderson
6-foot-6, 250 pounds | Leesville, Louisiana
Other offers: McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Kansas State (and a few others)
What to know: Anderson is a big guy and he’s one of the players Frost is most excited for strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval to get his hands on. He played right tackle in high school, and his film higlights a smart and athletic player on the offensive line.
Anderson instantly felt like he belonged at Nebraska when he visited (Premium) and it was more than enough to hold off Kansas State when they came knocking late in the game.
Frost: “Matthew Anderson from Louisiana is the frame we’re looking for. I think he’s got a huge upside for us once we get him in here and get him with Zach [Duval].”
3-star OT Jimmy Fritzsche
6-foot-7, 250 pounds | Greenville, South Carolina
Other offers: Connecticut, Appalachian State, Clemson (and several others)
What to know: Fritzsche is still listed as a tight end on his Hudl profile, but he is definitely not a tight end-sized athlete now. Nebraska noticed that and took advantage of it while SEC and ACC schools weren’t looking.
Fritzsche committed to Nebraska on the first day of the early signing period, signing his letter of intent on the spot. He had taken an official visit to Nebraska the weekend of Dec. 14 before Clemson came in with late attention, but Fritzsche found a home in Lincoln.
“The relationships I’ve built with the coaches and the building phase that is quickly progressing,” he told Hail Varsity.
Keep an eye on Fritzsche. He could be a major factor on the line within a year or two.
Frost: “Jimmy Fritzsche who joined us late is kind of the same type of kid; love his mentality. He’s going to be huge and he’s a great athlete that played other positions.”
3-star OT Michael Lynn
6-foot-6, 280 pounds | Greenwood Village, Colorado
Other offers: Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Washington State (and the list keeps going)
What to know: Lynn visited Nebraska for the spring game but left without an offer. That instead came on June 1, and Lynn later committed on Aug. 5.
Lynn may not receive the most attention out of all four players that signed, but he deserves it. He’ll add depth for the Huskers on a line that needs it, which will be incredibly valuable for Frost’s offense in the future.
Frost: “Michael Lynn from Colorado, he’s a special kid. Being out there and talking to him, it’s like talking to a 29-year-old, the way he’s got life figured out.”
Nebraska picked up a solid group of players for the offensive line during the early signing period. As for some final thoughts from Frost on the offensive line signees?
On the four Nebraska signed: “I look forward to getting all those guys in here. I think they all have a huge upside and with some work, I think they can become really good players for us.”
On Austin’s recruitment: “If only you were in our meetings. You only have so many spots in recruiting. There’s a lot of needs for us that need to be addressed and make sure we’re getting the right kind of talent into the program at all the different spots. I think Greg [Austin] would sign 31 offensive linemen if he could. I limit him a little bit, made sure we were getting the right kind of kid, a kid that we all agreed, we thought could be the type of player and the type of person that we wanted and it kind of boiled down to the kids that he ended up getting, and I think he did a great job. I think we signed a really good group up front.”