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Nebraska Fall Football Practice, 8.6.15

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley smiles at a comment during a football practice last fall at Hawks Championship Center.

It was an ongoing topic among Nebraska football fans last season.

NU offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh was asked about it more than a few times.

Why doesn't Nebraska alternate offensive linemen more often?

Husker head coach Mike Riley said this week that the staff has discussed rotating linemen more often during the upcoming season.

"What we try to look at, in general, is who is ready to play in the games?" Riley said.

Make no mistake, he likes the idea of five linemen working to establish rhythm.

"It's almost like choreography," he said. "Those guys work together, form a rhythm, get a rhythm in a game. We've been reluctant to change that." 

That said, Riley doesn't rule out more frequent rotation up front in 2016.

"Now, what we have done in the last year is talk more about that," Riley said. "We might get to the point where we feel more comfortable with a rotation."

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Nebraska lost to graduation four O-line starters from 2015 -- guard/tackle Zach Sterup, guard Chongo Kondolo, center Ryne Reeves and tackle Alex Lewis. Guard Dylan Utter and tackle Nick Gates are returning starters. Competition for playing time will be intense in spring practice, which begins March 5.

Nebraska seems to have more depth in the interior line than at the tackle spots. We'll see how it plays out.

Riley thinks back to his early years with Cavanaugh at Oregon State.

"If we could get five guys who could play in games, we were happy," Riley said. "If we had six, that was a bonus. If we had seven, that was probably as good as we ever were.

"So we never thought too much about it. But we did believe in the idea of continuity within a game and working together -- communication is just so big on the line. It's guys working in practice together, picking up stunts, making line calls. It's comfort.

"I know they've rotated here more in the past. It's just never been our style."

That could be changing. It largely depends on whether coaches feel confident there will little-to-no drop-off if starters get a break.

We'll have much more on the offensive line -- one of the team's foremost question marks, Riley said -- in Sunday's editions.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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