Notebook: The offensive line

A major overhaul of Nebraska's front five is taking place this spring.

LINCOLN, Neb. - With the graduation of Jeremiah Sirles, Spencer Long, Cole Pensick, Brent Qvale, and Andrew Rodriguez, a major remodel of Nebraska's offensive line is taking place this spring.

The group is considered deep, but lacks the starting experience a coach would hope for with a young quarterback at the helm. Injuries plagued Nebraska up front in 2013, but did give underclassmen a chance to contribute in big ways at various times.

"Guys go down and it sucks at the time, but you get guys getting work in and getting reps in games, that helps in years to follow," said senior guard Jake Cotton (11 starts in 2013), who is looking to take his game to a new level this spring.

"Last year, I had guys like Sirles and Pensick help me with the bigger picture. Now as an older guy, I think it's more of my role to look at the next level prior to the snap," said Cotton. "I think just honing down the details and working on the bigger picture. Looking at the whole defense, not just the guy lining up across from me," said Cotton."

The youngster not so young anymore:


After hitting campus as a 16-year old in the 2011 class, junior Givens Price is looking to contribute in big ways in 2014. Now 19 years old, Price has 11 career appearances to his name and is one who likely will be fighting for a starting spot at guard come this fall.

"I have definitely put on some weight," said Price (6-foot-4, 305-pounds) when asked physically how much he is different from when he first arrived in Lincoln. "I feel faster and I feel stronger than when I first got here or in previous years. Our strength program has definitely helped my teammates and me this offseason.

"Everybody is different, I feel that in high school I worked hard and didn't let age get to me. I have always been with guys who are older, and college didn't change that. I worked my hardest."

The Huskers have only completed two of their 15 total practices this spring, but Price has already been noticed by his teammates.

"Givens has come a long way," said Cotton. "Just the years alone are going to do wonders for the development. "It's showing this spring. He's more mature; he's more aggressive, he's really coming into his own."

Junior offensive line Ryne Reeves was in the same class as Price and has also noticed the change.

"He's grown up a lot, when he came in he was pretty mature for a 16-year old, but now he's just like everyone else. You can't tell the difference," said Reeves. "I would never have been able to do that. I was just learning how to drive and here he is playing college football. That's pretty crazy."

As for Cotton, could he have played for Nebraska when he was 16-years old?

"Shoot, when I was 16 I was barely was 200 pounds, so definitely no."

Price has looked at Cotton for advice and questions the last few months with the graduation of so many offensive lineman in the system.

"There are multiple guys who we can go to, but Jake is definitely the one with a lot of experience. He's somebody I have looked to," said Price, who feels the offensive line knows they have big shoes to fill. "I think that it's going to be a progression. We aren't going to be perfect in day one or day two, but overtime we will carry on the tradition the seniors left us."

The search for a center:


For the fourth time in four years, Nebraska is looking for a new starting center in 2014 and Reeves is a candidate for the job.

The Crete, Nebraska native has jumped back and forth between guard and center his whole career, but appears to be seeing significant reps at center this spring with senior Mark Pelini and redshirt sophomore Paul Thurston.

"When I was playing both in the fall it was sort of difficult going back and forth," said Reeves. "I have played guard more than I have played center."

Reeves played guard in high school, but was projected by Scout.com as a center coming into college. It's always been a position he's constantly practiced, knowing his name might be called one day. Every offseason, Reeves has worked the center spot during 7-on-7s to keep sharp.

"You are using your eyes a lot more," said Reeves when asked one of the biggest differences between the two positions. "In high school you don't make a lot of calls, liking picking up blitzes and stuff, but here you have to see the safeties and stuff.

"To make the calls you have to know exactly what's going on with the defense, you don't want to make a call that's bad, do the wrong thing, and screw up the whole play. You have to be confident."

Film study and experience have helped Reeves become confident enough to make those calls.

"As I have gotten older, I have gotten more comfortable with the offense," said Reeves. "But now, I'm making the calls."


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