No one wants to deal with injuries of any timetable, but Will Farniok is making the most of the extended action afforded him by the Huskers’ in-flux center position.
With Michael Decker and Cole Conrad both out, the true freshman Farniok is one of four players that has seen snaps at center since the Huskers began spring ball. His position coach, Greg Austin, wasn’t shy about lofting some praise his way after practice on Thursday.
“Will is awesome,” Austin said. “He’s an awesome kid and he’s very smart and cerebral and he picks up things well, he has natural ability to snap the ball.”
Six of the eight members of last year’s o-line group who logged a start have returned, and there are several other upperclassmen who should get a decent look from the new staff (Jalin Barnett says hello). Reps were probably going to be hard to come by for a youngster like Farniok, and yet Austin says he has pushed his way onto the first unit at times.
“He’s actually taking reps in some cases with the first team and holding his own,” Austin said. “Really excited about what he’s going to be and what he is currently.”
Part of Farniok’s driving force throughout these early stages has been his brother, Matt. As a redshirt freshman last season, Matt started five games spread out over the year at both right tackle and right guard. Austin said Matt has been harder on the younger Will than even he has.
“If Will doesn’t know something or takes the wrong step or does the wrong thing, I damn near don’t even have to say anything,” Austin said. “Matt’s in his ass like, ‘You should be doing this,’ and I’m like, ‘Matt, calm down, teach him first … he’s an 18-year-old kid.’”
At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Will has the size to possibly move to guard when the two injured centers return. It’s unlikely he’d play over Decker, who seemed to win the job over Conrad as last season played out, but there are a few things working in his favor.
First, last season's performance up front guaranteed no one a starting spot with this new staff coming to town. The offensive line's opportunity rate (percentage of runs when 5 yards are available that gain at least those 5 yards) ranked 112th in the country at 33.8 percent. Its standard-downs line-yards-per-carry average ranked 87th in the country at just 2.77 yards. Nebraska's staff has said repeatedly, the five best linemen will play this year.
And second, Austin didn’t totally rule out the possibility of Will playing early if he continues to progress.
“With the foundation he has all the way from high school, it was very, very good to get him as a mid-year and get him an extra spring ball under his belt,” Austin said. “I could very well see Will playing depending on what happens.”
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.