Cameron Jurgens showed some “red head” tendencies in his debut as Nebraska’s starting center, and I’m not talking about the color of his hair.
The redshirt freshman had some issues with his snapping against South Alabama as he played in front of nearly 90,000 fans for the first time at his new position.
“That was half of the battle was just getting him — and Trent [Hixson] who was making his first start, for that matter — getting those guys calmed down and letting them take it one play at a time, one drive at a time, understanding what their job is above and beyond the Xs and Os and the techniques,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said. “They have to make sure that they’re staying what we call a blue head.
“There are two heads that you can have within a game: a red head and a blue head. We know red head guys spaz out and kind of get overwhelmed by the situation, especially with their first start. That’s what we were trying to continue to keep those guys in that blue head mentality.”
Jurgens spent most of his redshirt freshman season as a tight end, switched over to Center later in the season and broke his foot before getting a chance to settle in at his new position. He started at center for the Red team in the spring game but suffered another injury that limited him throughout fall camp.
“I think it’s just getting more reps and getting more game reps, having a guy there and so many fans,” Jurgens said. “Everything’s correctable, it’s just rushing myself. I’ll be ready for it next week.”
Austin agreed: the only path to improvement is more reps.
“He’s a kid that didn’t get a whole bunch of reps as he nursed an injury throughout fall camp and those things showed up on Saturday,” Austin said. “Continuing to give him reps and full speed reps and the mechanics of snapping, etcetera. Also, he’s a freshman so that played a little bit of a part into the game on Saturday. But certainly those are not excuses; we have to get the job done.”
Snapping snafus aside, Jurgens said he enjoyed the opportunity to play football again.
“Oh man, it was just awesome,” Jurgens said. “I just love going out and playing football so being able to get back out there after a while was fun. I’m a football player so it was just awesome to get out there with my guys.”
Jurgens played the entire first half, roughly 50 snaps, before redshirt freshman Will Farniok stepped in for him to finish the game.
“It’s been a while since I played a football game so I was pretty sore, but it was awesome,” Jurgens said. “I love being a little sore after a football game; it means you worked hard. It was fun just getting back out there and getting back in the groove of things.”
Despite missing so much of fall camp, Scott Frost named Jurgens the starter almost as soon as he was cleared to practice fully and he was ready to dive right in.
“It’s just a mentality thing,” Jurgens said. “When I was rehabbing, I still went to practice, I’m watching, I’m staying involved and doing everything I can. So it’s just keeping my head involved and my body will get with it.”
Despite one injury after another, Jurgens said he was able to stay positive by focusing on the future.
“I just had to keep my mindset where it should be and keep looking forward to where I’m going to be and not where I’m at and just keep working day-by-day,” Jurgens said. “I can’t be getting upset or down in the dumps; that’s not helping anyone, it’s not helping myself or the team.”
According to Frost, the rotation between Jurgens and Farniok was pre-planned as the former had a “pitch-count” heading into the game, though Frost admitted that Jurgens played another drive after reaching that pitch-count.
“I can’t really tell you everything is off of reps and everything is off of the health of Cam,” Austin said. “Yeah, we put [Farniok] in there in the second half and we felt like that was the best strategy for everybody involved with Cam still coming back. Will stepped in there and didn’t do a bad job. It was his first game as well as a redshirt freshman. We’re relatively young at such a key position. The more and more we can get Cam reps, the more and more we can get Will reps, the better we’ll feel about that position moving forward throughout the season.”
Jurgens remained atop the depth chart when Nebraska released the week two version on Monday which means he’s in line for his second start against the Buffaloes including 6-foot-6, 320-pound nose tackle Jalen Sami. Jurgen's said he’s ready for whatever Colorado throws at him.
“I think it’s pretty nice having the D-Line that we have,” Jurgens said. “We’ve got some big guys at nose guard too so we’ll be ready for it.”