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Nebraska Football Practice, 11.15.16

Nebraska offensive lineman Nick Gates (68) pounds the chest of offensive lineman Jerald Foster (67) while practice drills during football practice on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, at Hawks Championship Center.

Time to take stock of what the Huskers lost, what returns, and what might be coming in 2017, while counting up some scholarships.

Today's position group of focus: offensive line.

Departures: Center — Dylan Utter. Guard/tackle — Sam Hahn, Corey Whitaker.

Scholarship count (13): Seniors — David Knevel, Zach Hannon, Dwayne Johnson. Juniors — Nick Gates, Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer. Sophomores — Jalin Barnett, Michael Decker, Christian Gaylord. Redshirt freshmen — Boe Wilson, John Raridon, Matt Farniok, Bryan Brokop. 

Walk-on watch: Tackle — Cole Conrad, jr.

Recruits in current class: Broc Bando (already enrolled), Brenden Jaimes, Matt Sichterman.

Overview: Game on. That should be the view of any Husker O-lineman, whether he's started two seasons or hasn't played a game yet. The competition should be, and needs to be, fierce for a group that struggled with injuries and consistency in the year now behind us.

There are basically four returning starters: Gates at left tackle, Foster at left guard, Farmer at right guard and Conrad/Knevel at right tackle. Some of those guys, particularly that left-side combo of Gates and Foster, didn't always get to show themselves at full health.

But the lack of a running game in 2016, as well as the promise of some youth that redshirted last fall, should have everyone at attention. The names of redshirt freshmen John Raridon, Boe Wilson and Matt Farniok were mentioned by coaches throughout the fall. Certainly they have a big chance to work their way into snaps.

Remember, Husker coaches darn near pulled the redshirt off Wilson with thoughts of starting him at left guard when Foster went down with injury. And Raridon might be a favorite for the open starting center job, though Decker may have something to say about it.

Also don't lose track of a guy like Barnett, who will be entering his third year in the program. He was believed to be the best lineman coming out of Oklahoma the year the Huskers signed him.

There have been valid discussions in the past about whether NU had enough talent up front. But look at this group in 2017, and on paper you will see plenty of linemen whose commitments were widely celebrated when they happened.

What looks good on paper needs to now look good on the field. And player development must produce depth that can withstand an injury or two. Because, in the Big Ten, there is going to be an injury or two on your O-line every year. If you want to chase a championship, you're going to need more than five you really believe in. You're going to need seven or eight.

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

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