Brenden Jaimes was not the most highly-touted of Nebraska’s 2017 recruits. In fact, he was not even the highest-rated lineman according to the Hail Varsity composite.
However, stars and recruiting rankings mean nothing once the players set foot on campus and Jaimes has quickly worked his way up the depth chart during fall camp.
On Aug. 3, offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh singled out Jaimes as one of the young linemen who had impressed him early in camp, saying he was working behind back-ups Christian Gaylord and Matt Farniok at both tackle spots.
However, over the last two weeks, Jaimes as been working as the No. 2 left tackle behind junior Nick Gates and ahead of Gaylord. Cavanaugh had more praise for him after Thursday’s practice.
“He’s doing a great job,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s a physical guy, learns fast, it’s important to him; it’s been fun.”
What has allowed the 6-foot-5, 250-pound native of Austin, Texas, to make so much progress so quickly?
“Probably that Texas football,” Cavanaugh said. “He had a really good coach in high school [at Lake Travis], this guy [Kyle] Spano. I just love his mentality, his approach, his demeanor. He doesn’t flinch. He just battles.”
It’s the mental side of the game for Jaimes that has really stood out to Gates.
“He’s just coachable, he’s really coachable,” Gates said. “He takes things from the meeting room and brings them out to the field. Cav tells him what to do and he listens. That’s definitely a big thing as a freshman to come in and do. He’s going to be a really good player. He’ll probably get drafted in the next four or five years.”
That is high praise for someone who has yet to play a snap of college football, but it speaks to the work Jaimes has done to this point.
“[He’s] really athletic and smart,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “I think that gives you a chance, especially at that position. I’ve been really pleased how fast he’s come along, especially being a true freshman. It’s not easy and I think he’s done a nice job really pushing that back-up tackle position.”
Has Jaimes made enough progress to avoid a redshirt? The coaches have not yet made that decision but they will soon. However, if Gates can stay healthy that conversation could be rendered moot.
After earning his way onto the field as the starting right tackle as a redshirt freshman, Gates was banged up much of last year after moving to the left side and closed the season by struggling mightily against Tennessee and current Philadelphia Eagle Derek Barnett.
When Gates first arrived in Lincoln, he did not believe he’d see the field until his junior year. Now, with his junior season about to start and with two years of starting experience under his belt, Gates said he feels good with where he is at in his development.
“Right now as I am, I’m excited with how I’ve developed and how I’ve come along,” Gates said. “This summer was big for me. I got a lot stronger than I was last year; I’m the strongest I’ve ever been since I I’ve been here, and that’s definitely helped.”
Gates said Cavanaugh has been riding the linemen all summer, encouraging Gates to clean up some of the technique issues — like posture and hand placement — that led to his struggles in the bowl game against Tennessee.
“He’s picked up a lot on us since last year,” Gates said. “Last year he was kind of laid-back. He expected a lot out of us but he wasn’t on us like he is now. He definitely comes out and expects a lot more energy and we run to the ball. Langs says either 4 yards for 200 yards so we either run up to the ball at the line of scrimmage or we’re going to take a lap around the field.”
As the linemen have grown, so has their relationship with Cavanaugh.
“I think that we’ve adjusted pretty well,” Gates said. “He knows what guys he can get on real hard and which guys he can’t, what guys he can tell what to fix and what guys he has to keep on … He expects a lot of us but he takes care of us too.”
With Gates as the cornerstone of the line and players like Jaimes waiting in the wings, the left tackle position at Nebraska looks to be in good hands.