Lincoln, NE - The possible biggest storyline going into Saturday's contest against UTC – the young offensive line.
A group that was supposed to return two starters and loads of other guys with game experience, will possibly feature a true freshman and walk-on.
Isn't college football in September fun?
But it's better to get these young guys opportunities now, instead of on the road in a Big Ten battle out of necessity.
"All the guys are growing up quick, fast, and in a hurry to be honest with you...I think early, you are going to see a lot of rotation still," said senior center Mike Caputo. "Coach Cotton is going to try to play as many guys as he can. It's still definitely an evaluation process for all of us."
The injury bug up front hasn't helped the Husker's cause. New assistant coach John Garrison, who was brought in to work with the offensive lineman, has preached unity up front since the beginning of the spring. But it has to be hard to establish a chemistry when multiple players sit out multiple days.
"Coach Beck and Coach Cotton have always said the same thing, 'next guy up,'" said Caputo. "It's about doing your job. Coach Beck actually told us after practice today, twos (second team) be ready, threes (third team) be ready. Because the team can't stop if one guy gets hurt."
"It doesn't help," said Garrison. You want to be able to build that cohesiveness. The more you are with a guy, the more you are going to know how he plays. What he is good at, what he is not good at. You can make up for it by helping him out."
Last season, the offensive line featured six to seven players a game. The goal this year – nine to ten. It starts this Saturday. Even if the young guys don't remain starters, it's about getting them ready to play down the road when needed.
"Spencer Long is only a red-shirt sophomore and going to have a great career here. Right now's he a one. Andrew Rodriguez is another guy who is a stud. He's young, but they are knowledgeable and confident about their game," said Caputo. "We have a lot of faith in them. Tyler Moore is another guy, who as a true freshman is doing a really good job strapping it up."
"Jake (Cotton) has done a great job," said Garrison. "The biggest thing is he just plays fast. As a defensive line moving to the offensive line, you just know what he is all about. We are excited about what he's done...I think it's a good fit. A lot of guys in the past started out on defense and moved to the offensive line. Take me for instance...Usually they are a little more athletic and have an aggression they play with. I think it's a good fit."