NU football practice, 8.7

Nebraska offensive lineman Cameron Jurgens watches drills from the sideline on Aug. 7 during practice at Hawks Championship Center.

In less than 10 minutes on Friday morning, Nebraska coach Scott Frost brought clarity to the Husker offensive line picture, perhaps camp's most talked-about group, as the program finishes preseason camp and shifts into game mode.

One, that presumptive starting left guard Trent Hixson had been put on scholarship, was expected.

The other, that redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens will be the No. 1 center when a formal depth chart is released in the coming days and is in line to start Nebraska’s opener next weekend against South Alabama, can only be considered a surprise.

Jurgens, after all, was limited at the start of preseason camp and has dealt with injuries — including a fractured foot last fall and at least one setback in his recovery — since shortly after he converted from tight end almost a year ago.

The Beatrice native, listed at 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, ramped up his workload considerably in the last week or so, graduating to individual work and full-on contact drills.

Now, he’s going to start over fellow redshirt freshman Will Farniok, who Frost also complimented on Friday.

“We look a little different with Cam Jurgens back and full speed now,” Frost said. “So we've got to keep him healthy, but I think he's going to be a game-changer for us on the inside of the line."

Frost cautioned against reading too much into NU’s first depth chart when it's released either this weekend or on Monday, but also said, “I expect Cam to be No. 1 on that chart.”

Jurgens first drew rave reviews last October when he switched to offensive line and began the process of putting on weight and learning the position. Offensive line coach Greg Austin said that Frost likened Jurgens to College Football Hall of Famer Dave Rimington.

“He’s a natural at snapping the football,” Austin said then. “The other thing you see with him is his frame. Our guys, (performance nutrition director) Dave Ellis and (head strength coach) 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.”

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Now 40 pounds heavier — at least by his listed weight on NU’s roster — Jurgens regained his health and swiftly put himself in a position to start.

Farniok is the presumed No. 2, followed by freshman Ethan Piper and redshirt freshman walk-on AJ Forbes.

"We started one man down in fall camp at center, and I think the guys that were in did a really good job,” Frost said. “I think Will Farniok's got a bright future here; he's still young but he did some really good things. Piper did some really good things being new to our program, AJ Forbes did well, (junior walk-on Josh) Wegener did well.”

One spot to the left, Hixson, the sophomore from Omaha Skutt, did nothing but solidify the job he took control of this spring at left guard.

At Friday’s practice, the Huskers rewarded him with a scholarship.

“The team was fired up for him, and he’ll be on scholarship the remainder of his time at Nebraska,” Frost said. “I’ve said all along that I thought the walk-on program would help us, but I thought it would take a little while to get those guys in the program, develop them the same way we develop the scholarship guys, give them reps. Kind of thought Trent might be the first one, but he really is the first in what I hope is a long line of walk-ons while I’m here that comes in, goes to work and becomes a guy that’s going to play or start for us.

“He deserves it, and I hope this isn’t the last one.”

The top line now looks relatively clear, with the two young players joining an established trio of juniors in left tackle Brenden Jaimes, right guard Boe Wilson and right tackle Matt Farniok.

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


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.

Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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