Tanner Farmer is improving at the art of snapping a football.
That's a good thing because he'll likely be Nebraska's starter at center Saturday for the second straight week in place of injured Cole Conrad.
"Right now we're still rolling with Tanner," Husker offensive line coach Greg Austin said following Wednesday's practice. "We'll see kind of how the week progresses. Really today was our last work day, so to speak. But Cole's still continuing to recover from his injuries."
A 6-foot-4, 325-pound senior from Highland, Illinois, Farmer started the first three games this season at right guard before playing center last week at Wisconsin. He has made 22 career starts at guard.
Which basically means he needs more work as a snapper.
“It’s technique and it’s really making sure that, when he gets fatigued, that the ball is still hitting the strike zone," Austin said. "He’s doing better with it. No snap errors today and I’m on his ass about it. And I’m on the quarterbacks’ ass that if the ball is frickin’ not where we want it to be, you’d better let him know because we just don’t need to be thrown off a read, our eyes to be on the ground when we should be looking at routes, looking at the protection call or making adjustments within the play off of something like a snap error. It’s, in some cases, a minor detail, but it’s a major detail on whether the play works or not."
Invoking a famous name: When Nebraska head coach Scott Frost first suggested to Austin that freshman Cameron Jurgens might be the team's center of the future, he invoked the name of an all-time program great.
Austin on Wednesday lowered his voice to a whisper as he recounted Frost’s words to him: “Hey, this could be the second coming of … Dave Rimington.”
Austin, himself a former Husker, added, “That’s a big name to throw out and when he threw it out I was like, ‘Come on, Coach.’”
But Jurgens does show considerable promise up front, where he’s already spending some time while also working as a tight end this fall.
“He’s a natural at snapping the football,” Austin said. “The other thing you see with him is his frame. Our guys, Dave Ellis and Zach Duval, do a great job of measuring how much a body frame can hold in terms of weight and support. His frame, he’s a guy that can carry the weight. He’s, in my opinion, the ideal size in terms of height to play inside and play center.”
Austin also said the Beatrice native is as fast out of his stance already as any Husker offensive lineman.
“He’ll take a guy on a frickin’ angle and finish him 5, 10 yards from the line of scrimmage,” he said.
Jurgens, though, was on crutches and sporting a walking boot on his right foot after practice Wednesday. Coaches gave no details about the nature of the injury.
Washington's role: After he posted career highs of four receptions for 53 yards against Wisconsin, Nebraska freshman running back Maurice Washington could see his role expand in coming games.
In fact, Husker offensive coordinator Troy Walters said, Washington is exactly what NU coaches seek in all athletes — a versatile weapon.
"He's a playmaker, so we're going to find ways to get him the ball, find ways to match him up against someone that he has an advantage over," Walters said. "You're going to see him in a number of different roles."
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Washington, of Stockton, California, rushed five times for 27 yards against the Badgers. He now ranks third on the team in receiving yards (79) and fourth in both rushing yards (157) and all-purpose yards (285).
"We've got to be smart," Walters said. "We can't overwork him. But we definitely have to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands because when he has the ball in his hands, he's pretty special."
Washington poses matchup problems for defenses. For instance, Wisconsin played man-to-man defense against him in space with a linebacker. That's obviously not ideal for a defense.
"He has the skill set of a receiver, so there's going to be times when you see him as a receiver trying to create a matchup on a linebacker or a safety who's not used to covering him," Walters said.