For a fourth year, we’re counting down the 10 most intriguing Huskers. Earlier, I wrote about who would have earned spots 11-20 if the countdown was extended out and shared a look at the previous three groups of Huskers from 2018, ’19, and ’20.
The intent of this exercise is to highlight players who might have the largest impact on the upcoming season, one way or the other, with their play. It’s not a ranking of the best players on the team and it’s not even really a rundown of the most important players to accomplish X, Y, and Z. It’s as the name suggests: the most intriguing talents on the roster.
Things kicked off with Nick Henrich at No. 10 and Oliver Martin and No. 9. Last week saw No. 8 Quinton Newsome and No. 7 Gabe Ervin Jr. added to the list. Earlier this week, we added No. 6 Adrian Martinez to the group. Up next…
No. 5: Matt Sichterman
As consistent as a Big Mac, Greg Austin said this week of the fifth-year guard.
Can you think of a clearer compliment?
There’s a store on my route home. It is a McDonald’s after all so we’re dealing with a small sample size, but I’ve only ever had one or two quality orders of fries. I need the golden brown and crispy kind. Sometimes they’re cold. Often times they’re soggy. Despite being one of the more marketable items, the variance is pretty wild with respect to what you’re gonna get in the bag.
That Big Mac, though. That thing is going to taste the same regardless of when you get it and where you’re at.
(Austin should go into writing. Strong analogy.)
An offensive line is only as strong as its weakest link. Matt Sichterman will presumably join the starting group this season for the Huskers and though he will be one of the oldest players on the line, he’ll have little in the way of starting experience to fall back on. Sichterman’s play at guard could be a huge factor in determining how much success Nebraska’s offensive line has as a unit, and that unit is likely the biggest swing factor on offense.
Nebraska averaged 23.1 points per game last year as an offense, the lowest in a season since 1969. Running backs struggled to find daylight until the final game of the year. The line struggled to keep Martinez clean on standard downs. If NU wants to run the ball to set up everything else, it needs an offensive line that is more Big Mac than French fry.
That’s true across the board.
But Sichterman’s entry into the top group provides a lot of interest.
“He’s a helluva lot smarter than I’ll ever be,” said Austin, Nebraska’s offensive line coach
A junior, Sichterman is majoring in software engineering. Broc Bando, Sictherman’s classmate on the line, called him a genius. He started coding and 3D printing while still in high school. If you know anything about line coding, it requires relentless commitment to detail and a keen eye.
“I kind of value myself as a technician now, so I’m to a point now where it’s just kind of refining small things of my game to bring it to the next level and pull those guys along with me,” he said this spring.
A tackle upon arrival in 2017, Sichterman has bounced around all over the line. “I think I was ready to play last year,” he said. And he did, but only once on offense. “I think we were deep at the guard position.” Sichterman has sat behind guys like Matt Farniok and Boe Wilson. When Farniok left after the 2020 season, Sichterman was one of the last names anyone expected to emerge from spring ball as the leader at right guard.
It’s true, Sichterman is still in a battle with Brant Banks for the starting spot come the fall, but the 6-foot-4 man with 24 career appearances under his belt is in pole position this summer.
“Up until now, he’s been a backup, a quality backup, and I didn’t know what he was going to be coming into spring,” Austin said. “When I say I didn’t know what he was going to be, I knew that we were going to give him a shot, and he’s taking full advantage of it. He’s done a really good job. He’s been consistent, he’s been a leader, he’s been a vocal leader.”
Added Sichterman: “Coming into this season, I feel like the leader out there, and I’ll try to do what I can to lead this O-line. I’m feeling great and I’m ready to play.”
It took Farniok some time to find his footing at guard last season. He talked about the speed adjustment, moving from tackle to guard. Nebraska certainly went through the growing pains on the field. Farniok performed well, but consistency wasn’t the strong suit.
Really, Nebraska needs smart, level-headed play on the interior. It has the athleticism to accomplish what Scott Frost wants, what with all the pulling linemen are asked to do in this offense, but it needs to erase the mental hiccups that have plagued/stalled/derailed possessions in recent seasons. Sichterman thinks he can do the former; how consistent can he be with the latter? As the line goes, Nebraska goes.
Surely, too, Sichterman’s years could be a positive for Bryce Benhart next to him at tackle. His understanding of the game could be a benefit to Cam Jurgens at center as well. “He’s a cerebral kid,” Austin said. “He has a good feel for leadership, a good feel for understanding when to push the buttons of the young guys.”
Perhaps Banks takes the job from him in fall camp. At 6-foot-7 with a huge base, he’d provide a different look on the right side of Nebraska’s offensive line. But as things stand, Sichterman is in line to earn his first starting job after four years of waiting.
“I’ll tell you, Sich is a kid that I’m very proud of as it relates to his tenure of being here,” Austin said. “He’s been everything that we’ve asked him to be, and he’s been a pretty productive offensive lineman for us. I’m pretty proud of him and looking forward to where he goes and what he does at that position.”
So is everyone else.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.