Red Report: Garrison sees options on the O-line

2013-10-23T21:30:00Z 2013-10-24T17:31:06Z Red Report: Garrison sees options on the O-lineBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

John Garrison knows this: He has options.

As Nebraska tries to figure out its offensive line rotation to fill in for the loss of senior Spencer Long, Garrison is finding a strength in numbers.

"We have options and guys that are pushing guys," Garrison said Wednesday. "I think in a game situation we're going to play quite a few guys."

The greatest weight, it seems, will fall on Mike Moudy, who is set to take the starting snaps against Minnesota at right guard.

Moudy's versatility — he moved from left guard to right guard against Purdue despite not playing on that side since fall camp — impresses Garrison.

"There aren't many guys in the country that could do that and he obviously did a great job for us," Garrison said. "It doesn't phase him at all. Today he took (snaps) on the left and right."

Garrison said coaches still haven't made a decision on whether junior college transfer Chongo Kondolo — who at this point still has his redshirt intact — will travel this weekend.

But Ryne Reeves and Givens Price were the first names he mentioned as possibilities to provide backup depth at the guard spots.

Senior Cole Pensick has also seen some practice snaps at guard, though the lion's share remain at center.

"I just think if we had to move him over to spell somebody at right or left (guard), he could do that maybe a series or two," the coach said. "But he's our center right now."

* CLOSE AT LB: The Huskers plan on starting David Santos (MIKE), Zaire Anderson (WILL) and Jared Afalava (BUCK) at the linebacker spots on Saturday.

But the battles at those positions remain close. Michael Rose is basically even with Anderson, linebackers coach Ross Els said, and Nathan Gerry is right there with Afalava.

Els said Anderson, who had a bruised bone early in Big ten play, is healthy again. "He deserves to at least start off the game. But I don't worry about who starts. It's who finishes."

While there have been different starters at the linebacker spots throughout the year, including the MIKE spot, where Josh Banderas was at one point atop the depth chart, Els said everyone has handled the depth chart adjustments well.

"All these guys, they've all been demoted. All six guys have been fired at one time," Els said. "But they've resurrected themselves and they're back and playing. They've all handled it well. It's a tight-knit group."

* WHO'S TOUGHER?: Although Minnesota has played two quarterbacks this season, the situation isn’t causing headaches for Nebraska’s defensive coaches.

“They’re very similar and they run the same offense (no matter who’s at QB),” said defensive coordinator John Papuchis. “It really doesn’t make that big of a difference to us who they put out there.”

Philip Nelson, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore from Mankato, Minn., has completed 53.9 percent of his passes, with four interceptions and three touchdown passes. He has rushed 51 times for 229 yards (4.5 per carry) and three TDs.

Mitch Leidner, a 6-4, 233-pound redshirt freshman from Lakeville, Minn., has completed 61.4 percent of his throws, with one interception and one TD. He has rushed 71 times for 344 yards (4.8) and five TDs.

“They’re both physical runners,” Papuchis said. “The whole team is a physical group. They’re going to pound the football (on the ground). They’re going to try to impose their will on us, and it’s going to come down to who’s tougher.”

* SECONDARY SUPPORT: Minnesota wants to be physical, establish the running game and grind out long drives.

If the Gophers throw the football — which isn't often — it’s usually out of play-action and with max protection.

“You’re limited on how much pressure you can get,” Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph said. “The routes will last a lot longer, there will be some two-man routes. Hopefully, we can get some guys doubled when we need to.”

Because Nebraska’s safeties will be held up in run support, more pressure is put on the cornerbacks. Joseph said Stanley Jean-Baptiste has had a good week of practice, Josh Mitchell’s ankle is feeling better, and Ciante Evans has had a good week, too.

“The play-action game is where they really want to hurt you,” Joseph said. “They do a lot of speed-sweep stuff and try to throw play-action off of it.

“The big thing for us on the back end is being disciplined, being in the right place and having good eye control, and not really getting sucked up on the run, and knowing who has run responsibility and who doesn't.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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