Husker football practice, 4/8

Nebraska center John Raridon (left) works with Huskers quarterback Andrew Bunch during spring football practice on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The second-generation Husker is son to a man who played on teams that won three conference championships and twice led the country in rushing yardage.

So John Raridon knows better than most any 19-year-old what it is exactly that Nebraska fans are picturing when they talk about dominant offensive line play.

Not only was his dad, Scott Raridon, a three-year offensive lineman on powerhouse Husker teams from 1981 to 1983. He was close friends with the great Dave Rimington. They even lived together a couple of years, John has heard.

As he grew up, he saw some of the old tapes. He watched how Rimington worked over defensive linemen on his way to winning the Outland Trophy twice, along with one Lombardi Award.

"Watching Dave, one of the greatest offensive lineman of all time, he's like a big inspiration for me — seeing what he did, how he can help me," Raridon said after a Husker practice earlier this week.

No need for many Husker O-line history lessons here. "I'm pretty familiar with it."

The redshirt freshman stands 6-foot-4, 285 pounds and has already received some early positive reviews from coaches and peers alike. There had certainly been some wondering if he just might win the starting center job.

As it turns out, there is some shifting of responsibilities going on with that Husker offensive line in the latter half of spring. Raridon is one of the key names involved in the movement.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley explained after Saturday's scrimmage that Raridon is now working at left guard. He and sophomore Jalin Barnett are battling behind junior Jerald Foster.

Meanwhile, junior Cole Conrad has moved from tackle, where he started five games a season ago, to the center position, where he's competing with sophomore Michael Decker.

The move of Conrad seems to tell two things:

1) Senior David Knevel seems to have a pretty good grip on the right tackle job if they're moving Conrad away.

2) Conrad might be one of Nebraska's top five linemen at the moment, though he'll have to prove that. And moving him to center opens the possibility to get the best five on the field.

That second point isn't conjecture. It was made by Riley on Saturday.

According to the coach, Conrad and Decker are actually flipping a coin now, just like the quarterbacks are doing to see who takes first reps.

"I think what that does … like the quarterback deal, it obviously just puts an exclamation point that there is competition there," Riley said. "And one guy that might have had an edge has to work to keep an edge. The other guy sees opportunity. So to me there's nothing bad about that."

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The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Conrad is a junior walk-on from Archbishop Bergan. He popped into the picture last year, playing in every game.

When it comes to putting together Nebraska's 2017 offensive line, Riley notes that the discussion isn't just limited to the depth chart. There's that push to get the best five out there however possible.

In Conrad's case, the thinking is that maybe the second-best right tackle is the fifth best lineman overall right now. Maybe.

That's what three more days of spring practices and three weeks of practices in the fall still have to sort out.

In connection, moving Raridon to left guard might bolster competition there as well. Three highly regarded redshirt freshman are now on that second line trying to push older players.

Raridon is at left guard, behind Foster. Boe Wilson is at right guard, behind Tanner Farmer. Matt Farniok is at right tackle, behind Knevel.

Raridon said it's a close trio. They lived together the first semester. They spent a redshirt season together after some early rumblings that either or both Wilson or Raridon might play that first fall on campus.

"It is a grind because you do really want to play," Raridon said. "But me, Boe, Farniok, it gives us an opportunity to build some camaraderie, just strengthen as a unit.

"Because we're guys that are going to be playing in the next few years, so that experience I thought was real helpful for us."

While it's a different level, Raridon recalls a story from when he was on the high school basketball team and thought he'd be a starter. The coach didn't make him one.

He wasn't used to that. He took it as a lesson, though.

"That taught me what it was like to work hard and contribute to the team without starting," he said.

In his first media interview since being a Husker, Raridon already comes off as someone used to having microphones in front of him.

As he works to better his craft, he describes his approach as so: Don't overthink things, but stay vigilant.

Wearing the "N" on the helmet like his dad and Dave did is cool. But let's be honest, it's not something a player is going to dwell on every hour when he's chasing his own Husker memories, and trying to challenge for a starting job.

"You kind of imagine what it's going to be like when you're in high school," Raridon said. "And then once you're here, you're just busy: working out, lifting, going to school. You don't really stop and think about it all the time, but it really is a pretty special deal."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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