Husker Extra is running a four-week series called Heat Index, a quick look at the Huskers before fall camp. This week, Steven M. Sipple counts down five position battles of particular interest.
Today, a look at center, where two battle-tested seniors appear to have the inside track.
During spring practices, three players — Tanner Farmer, fellow senior Cole Conrad and redshirt freshman Hunter Miller — played center, with Farmer sliding over from his starting right guard spot. Michael Decker watched the action as he recovered from a knee injury. Then, in May, Decker decided to retire from the sport.
It's easy to imagine Farmer taking over at center during preseason camp next month, but not if Conrad can help it.
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And don't rule out Miller.
A native of Fremont, Conrad was last season's starting center for seven games — the first three of the season and the final four after Decker was injured and Conrad had recovered from his own injury. Conrad started five games at tackle in 2016.
Miller, a graduate of Cross County High School near Stromsburg, missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury. But he took advantage of injuries to veterans this spring and clearly impressed first-year offensive line coach Greg Austin.
In fact, Austin at one point in the spring said Miller “is legitimately pushing for (playing) time right now. He’s the guy we’re putting a lot of stock in right now — a guy that goes with the majority of the first-team reps. We’re riding him.”
Austin likes the 6-5, 275-pound Miller’s even-keel nature.
“To be honest with you, when we first started, I didn’t know that first practice of spring ball was his first collegiate practice — ever,” the coach said. “I was really kind of amazed by how he was able to fit in and really do a pretty dang good job early on.”