LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska football team has faced its fair share of injuries this season, especially to starters at key positions, like running back and on the offensive line. It could have created a lot of problems for the Huskers. Instead, it ended up providing extra depth.
“I think the nice thing about playing some young guys is that you become deeper in a hurry,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said after practice on Monday. “The No. 1 is back and now you have a little bit of depth all of sudden so I like that part of it.”
With that said, all of the Nebraska coaches have been clear that when injured players return to practice, there is no guarantee they’ll get their starting spots back. That’s something offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is personally dealing with as senior right tackle David Knevel works his way back from an injury.
“It’s always competition. I think a lot of times guys in college automatically think that because they’re the starter that they are the starter forever,” Cavanaugh said. “It doesn’t work that way. Guys have to keep working and fighting back.”
When coach Mike Riley addressed the media at his weekly news conference Monday morning, he provided a little more insight at the right tackle position. As of now, true freshman Brendan Jaimes is the guy to beat. He is currently listed at the No. 1 spot at right tackle, with Knevel and redshirt freshman Matt Farniok backing him up.
This will continue to be evaluated as Knevel gets healthier, but it’ll remain a competition regardless.
“Right now, as it stands today until we know the day that Knevel practices, practices full time and feels good, it’s not yet that final conversation,” Riley said. “We think he’s healthy so we will look at it this week, but if we were playing today, Jaimes would start.”
Langsdorf likes the depth built at right tackle with Jaimes. He also likes the extra depth Michael Decker can now provide as he’s played in Cole Conrad’s absence at center.
There are also spots at wide receiver that have helped the offense overall.
“I think you’ve seen some good minutes from Gabe Rahn and [Bryan] Reimers. JD [Spielman] has given us good minutes, although he’s been kind of the No. 1 in there at the slot. We are building some depth at receiver. It’s nice being able to have De’Mornay [Pierson-El] and Tyjon [Lindsey] rotating, and when we can we give [Stanley Morgan Jr.] a break and put Connor Young in there.
“I think all of those guys have contributed and it’s made our team deeper.”
Even running backs coach Reggie Davis is thinking about the depth that is being built with his group. As I-back Tre Bryant continues to sit out with a knee injury, Mikale Wilbon and Devine Ozigbo are stepping up in his place.
“Those guys know there is a competition as long as there is a football out there,” Davis said. “The way things have gone up until this point, I think they know pretty well up until this point that you have to perform week in and week out if you’re going to be the starter. There’s no secret there.”
Expect to hear the word ‘competition’ quite a bit going forward. As original starters begin to heal and recover, there could be some battles at key spots.
And as far as Riley and his staff sees it, that’s very good news overall.
“If those other guys can go in and play well, play better than your team when the other guys get back will be stronger,” Riley said. “How that sorts itself out will be based on strictly about competition and how we feel who gives us the best chance to win.”
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