It will be an interesting spring for Nebraska's offense. The Huskers are racking up top-25 rankings at this early stage, and all of those hang mostly on the perceived strength of that unit. Quarterback is in great shape with Adrian Martinez. JD Spielman is a proven weapon. There's plenty to sort out elsewhere at wide receiver and running back, but there's also plenty of promise in both rooms. The true wildcard on offense, however, might be the offensive line.
The Huskers return just over half their starts on the line from 2018. Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok are now the veterans up front, but that still leaves three big holes to fill on the interior. Given the position's role in the offense, none of those holes might be bigger than center.
Seniors Tanner Farmer and Cole Conrad, the top two at center on the final depth chart of the season, are gone. Redshirt freshman Cam Jurgens is making the high-profile move from tight end to center and will definitely draw the most intrigue from fans. Fellow redshirt freshman Will Farniok might be the next best bet, though he seems to be trending towards a different spot of late. And then there's walk-on Joshua Wegener who is joining the program from Iowa Western.
Before anyone just glosses over the last option, go read this story from Kevin White of the Daily Nonpareil. The story does a nice job of outlining why Wegener's decision to walk on in Lincoln is more intriguing than most.
One, there's the IWCC-to-Nebraska angle, which is interesting because there hasn't really been that angle in the past. That's never totally added up. The Reivers are one of the top junior-college programs in the country over the last few years and, based on that, you'd think there would be a little more overlap with the college football power closest to it. For whatever reason there hasn't been much, but, according to White's story, the IWCC staff is convinced they might be sending one of the program's best representatives to Nebraska in Wegener.
"From our standpoint, there isn’t a better player that we’d like to send down that way for that staff to evaluate," said Donnie Woods, Iowa Western’s offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach. "Josh has the mentality of a guy that’s going to come in and put the work in, regardless if he’s the No. 300 center in the country or the No. 1 center in the country. That is what sets Josh apart."
Two, Wegener is the No. 1 junior-college center in the country (according to JCGridiron.com) and that's a pretty good player for Nebraska to land as a walk-on. But more than that, Wegener's IWCC coaches say he has the mentality for center. He started his career on the defensive line.
“As I went through the film, I couldn’t find one guy that was able to do the stuff that Josh was able to do," he said. "So when it came out that he was the No. 1 center in the country, it wasn’t a shock to us. He’s bought into the development side of it. When a guy starts playing with the technique you’re asking him to play with, and he has all the intangibles, the sky is the limit."
We'll see what the Huskers' options at center actually look like in a couple of months, but it's possible that Wegener might have more game experience than any of them, and that's factoring in that his one season as a center was cut short by a foot injury. He's still rehabbing that injury and plans to enroll at Nebraska in time for summer workouts.
That might put Wegener a little behind when it comes to Nebraska's battle for the top spot at center, but the nine games he's played at the position are nine more than anyone else has. That's his advantage.
Given Nebraska's strength and star-power elsewhere on offense––interestingly enough I don't think I'd say depth for any of the positions, however––you might be able to convince me the race for snaps at center might be one of the most important races of the offseason.
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- Which team has the better 2019, Nebraska or Iowa? We tackle that one and more in the latest mailbag.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.