Competition and aggression.
Those seem to be the two buzz words of spring football for the offensive line for Nebraska this year. Coaches talk frequently about how increased competition can improve a mindset for a team. Competition this spring is bringing out the best at many positions. We’ve heard that from the players and coaches we have talked to so far.
The guard position is one where we expected to see that happen. Returning starting Ethan Piper is seeing that on a daily basis.
“We just have a lot of guards,” Piper said on Monday. “This is spring ball. You’re fighting for your spot every single day. Everybody’s going to get enough reps. You just have to come out and put some good stuff on film and see. Coach will decide from there.”
That added competition will help keep players sharp this spring. That’s the natural effect of having to fight for spots daily.
The other thing that is happening this spring is more attention to finishing. Offensive line coach Greg Austin talked about the change to practice earlier in the spring.
“Coach Frost, I give him a lot of credit, he’s changed up some of the things we do in practice and allowed us to really emphasize finishing,” Austin said. “Through the first couple practices, it’s been really cool to see us playing until the end of the whistle with less emphasis on going fast.”
You aren’t going to find an offensive lineman that isn’t excited by the idea of being more aggressive. That mindset can help the sputtering Husker offense under Frost. The group up front is gaining confidence. That started with the 28-21 season-ending win over Rutgers. Nebraska racked up more than 600 yards of offense in that game. There was a noticeable fire with the line that game too.
“We kind of came together as a group after that game and said, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’ I know the last couple seasons the output hasn’t been as people expected, but I think we’re starting to believe in each other,” Piper said. “I think that itself is going to give us big strides for next year.”
The Husker offense will have a lot more room for error this season if the offensive line takes strides to live up to its potential this year. Four of the five starters will have experience starting in the Big Ten. The least experienced starter, left tackle Turner Corcoran was a highly-rated recruit. He didn’t look out of place in his first start against Rutgers. Piper has been impressed with his play.
“He’s just a great guy. Hard worker,” Piper said. “He comes to practice and brings the mentality that I’m going to get better today. I love being next to him. I think he elevates the offensive line.”
Nebraska will be breaking in a new running back during the 2021 season. It’s even more important for the offensive line to hit the ground running when the season starts. The foundation for the mindset needed to do that seems to be forming in Lincoln this spring.