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Huskers fall practice, Day 5, 8/8

NU offensive line coach Greg Austin instructs the players during a practice last August.

As Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin rolled through all the guys in his room in a radio interview on Tuesday evening, he added some version of "we're going to count on him," to seemingly all of the returning players. 

Certainly it's an area of the roster where the competition will be fierce in preseason camp next month, considering at least two positions — left guard and center — are up for grabs. 

Austin, though, is heading toward the fall counting on a big number of players because he seems to genuinely like the depth he has in Year 2 with the Huskers. 

"We're really excited about the depth, the one- and two-deep depth that we have," he said. "Certainly we want to keep getting better as a whole, but last year we just didn't have the quality of depth that we needed. Some guys had to play more snaps over the course of the year, and you wear down if you have five guys taking the majority of the snaps." 

The former Husker did not provide much of an update on the health status of redshirt freshman center Cam Jurgens, but Austin reiterated what the program thinks of the Beatrice native. 

"Whenever he's healthy, hoo boy, he's a force to be reckoned with," Austin said. "The biggest thing is we have to make sure we're keeping him healthy and that he understands his angles and all those things. This is really his first year playing the position." 

Regardless of where Jurgens is healthwise — Frost didn't want to say much about his status last week in Chicago — the Huskers are preparing several others at center, including true freshman Ethan Piper, redshirt freshmen Will Farniok, Hunter Miller and AJ Forbes, sophomore Trent Hixson and others. 

Austin commended Farniok's progress in the weight room but also his ability to develop more "command presence" in the huddle. 

"He's sure of the schemes and now he's becoming more sure of himself, sure of his techniques and his ability," Austin said. "You can just see him getting more comfortable." 

Austin also likes the work of Forbes, an in-state walk-on, and Hixson, who is perhaps the favorite at left guard but will also try snapping the ball during camp. 

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The newest addition to the group is Piper, the Norfolk native who arrived this summer and was set to begin his career as a defensive lineman before he was quickly moved to the offensive side. 

"He's going to start off at center for us," Austin said. "At that center position, you're the one that has to bark out the the initial calls of the offense, and he's been picking it up really well. Smart kid. … He's a very, very cerebral kid and certainly he's been a delight to coach. 

"I'm really anxious to see what he can do these first couple weeks of fall camp because that's really going to spell how quickly he can get on the field." 

Briefly

* Austin made it pretty clear that freshmen Matthew Anderson, Michael Lynn and Jimmy Fritzsche are headed for redshirt years, but he is happy with the progress all are making. Lynn, Austin said, is already teaching his classmates the ins and outs of the offense, while Fritzche "puts on a couple more pounds every time I see him." 

* Tackle Bryce Benhart will be the other candidate — seemingly besides Piper — to potentially play as a true freshman. 

"Bryce is a kid we're depending on sooner rather than later," Austin said, adding he didn't know right away if that would be this fall or as a redshirt freshman, but that Benhart possess everything necessary to be an early contributor. 

* Austin said the staff was pleasantly surprised with Broc Bando's progress during spring ball and that he thinks Bando can compete for a two-deep spot at tackle. Austin said he thinks Bando could be the "sleeper" of the group. 

* Austin said junior Boe Wilson is second in command in the room in terms of player leadership after junior Matt Farniok. 

"Boe brings that brass," Austin said. "You're always going to get his best, strongest, toughest shot. … He sets a great example. Most recently, he's been starting to open up his mouth and hold other guys accountable." 

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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