A common discussion point among fans and some media members has been a potential position switch for junior Matt Farniok, last year’s starting right tackle. This spring, the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Farniok is still working at tackle and no position change has been discussed with him.
However, a couple other players have switched positions and are making some noise on the offensive line through the first couple of weeks of spring ball.
The most high-profile change is Cameron Jurgens moving from tight end to the offensive line. The coaches made the change late last season but Jurgens broke his foot before he really had a chance to get his feet wet.
Jurgens is healthy now and up to 285 pounds, and the coaches are throwing him into the fire in spring ball.
“We’re taking it slow and really peeling the onion back with Cam,” offensive line coach Greg Austin said. “We’re trying to teach it the right way so he does not develop bad habits early on. But he’s an awesome learner. He learns by doing, as do most people, especially with technique.”
When the first-team offensive line took to the Hawks Championship Center field during the portion of practice that was open to the media, Jurgens was there in the middle taking the center snaps.
“He’s a smart kid, so you don’t have to teach him, you don’t have to tell him 500 reps to make that guy the point or make that guy the point; he’ll get it in two or three reps at the most,” Austin said. “It’s a day-to-day learning with him, small steps. Teaching the load of the stance, teaching what foot to put down, teaching his hip leverage, all those things that allow you to do that in spring ball so that you get some good film on and you find out the right way to do it, you find out the wrong way to do it. Even the right way, sometimes you coach through the right to make it even better, I’m excited about him and what his potential is going to be.
“The biggest thing is just making sure that he’s staying healthy throughout.”
When asked about whether or not is was easy to get Jurgens to buy into and get excited about the position change, Austin said “yes and no.”
“Yes from the standpoint of the kid will do everything he can for this team and for his brothers,” Austin said. “No from a standpoint of there’s always that realization that ‘OK, so this is going to be my new life,’ putting on the weight. So there’s a little bit of insecurity there that always happens with it, and then there’s a trust factor. I’ll give Cam a lot of credit. Coach [Scott] Frost came to Cam and said ‘Hey, we need you to do this.’ He trusted Coach Frost and he trusted that he has his best interest in mind as our coaching staff does with all of our kids.
“He’s been awesome during the transition. I would like to say in some parts of it it was a little bit easier and in some parts, a little bit harder. But he fully committed to it, he jumped all in and he’s doing a good job.”
Jurgens joined the three returning starters — Farniok, Brenden Jaimes and Boe Wilson — on that first unit during the open portion of practice. The fifth was another player who has made a position change, walk-on Trent Hixson.
“He’s done a good job,” Austin said. “Again, effort, intensity. When we first arrived, he was a tackle and we had to play him at tackle because of depth issues, depth concerns and etcetera. So when he slid into guard, we knew that was his better position and he’s done a pretty good job at that position. He’s getting better and we see a lot of value, a lot of future value in him at that position, so we’re giving him every opportunity to take that job.”
Why is the 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman out of Omaha Skutt a better fit at guard?
“The way he moves his feet, the way he moves his body, his length or lack thereof at tackle,” Austin said. “When we talk about the Big Ten, we’re talking about playing guys that are 6-8, 6-7 on the edge. We need some tall characters out there and Trent’s not the tallest person. Now, he’s not short by any means, but to have him out there — say he has a future as a starting tackle, that’s not really feasible if you really want to be a championship operation. His stature is more applicable to guard, so that’s where we have him. His aggressiveness and his ability to move people, that’s a guard.”
Farniok, Jaimes (6-foot-6, 300 pounds), Christian Gaylord (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and incoming freshmen Bryce Benhart (6-foot-9, 305 pounds), Jimmy Fritszche (6-foot-7, 255 pounds) and Matthew Anderson (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) fit the mold of what the Huskers are looking for at tackle. But Hixson is a great fit at guard and Austin said he’s further along as a run blocker the he is as a pass-blocker at this stage of his development anyway.
Nebraska needs a new center and a new left guard, and Jurgens and Hixson are making a strong case for themselves as they try to win those jobs this spring.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.