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Spring football practice, 3.5.2016 (copy)

Considering the unknowns that surround both Nebraska's offensive and defensive lines heading into this 2016 season, there are far worse descriptions to be given than what Mike Riley attached to them on Saturday.

Solid. He didn't overdo it with praise. He didn't act like either line is a big mess. On August 13, three weeks before a game, both groups are solid. But...

"They look pretty solid, but need improvement in different ways," the Husker coach said after a scrimmage inside Memorial Stadium. "Physically just growing with the defensive line that is youthful. And then offensively, I think just assignments. The physical part looks good. I think they can block some guys well. It's just blocking the right guy."

The youth of Nebraska's defensive line has been well-documented. On Saturday, it was Freedom Akinmoladun and Ross Dzuris as the top defensive ends, with Kevin Maurice and Mick Stoltenberg as the top defensive tackles. Your starting four come the opener? It seems a pretty good bet.

They have nine total starts between them heading into that opener against Fresno State. Dzuris has started four games, Freedom has started four games, the senior Maurice has started one game.

The second group on Saturday featured Carlos Davis and Logan Rath as the defensive tackles, with A.J. Natter and Sedrick King at the ends. (Khalil Davis sat out with a knee injury, but is expected to return soon.)

Riley expresses optimism about that defensive line while also giving some real talk about where things stand at this very moment.

"I think for sure our defensive line is on the rise," he said. "We need a lot of work to get game ready and be a factor in the games. We've got to continue to develop so that we have the ability to have pass rushers in that picture. But overall, that group looks solid."

On the O-line, Riley likes the possibilities on the interior. That consists of Jerald Foster at left guard, Dylan Utter at center and Tanner Farmer at right guard. "I think these guys are going to be good," the coach said. He thinks the move of Utter from guard to center is proving to be the right one.

Tackles? "I think (David) Knevel is going to be a good player. We already know (Nick) Gates is."

It's also probably fair to say Riley feels better about the depth at O-line in this camp than he did a year ago.

After the starting five, Riley again mentioned redshirt freshman guard Jalin Barnett as someone who is "going to be a real good player." He also brought him up at the press conference prior to fall camp.

Senior Corey Whitaker is also "valuable." He can play guard, tackle, even center. Riley name-dropped Christan Gaylord, Sam Hahn and Cole Conrad as players who have progressed. All could help with tackle depth. Probably not Matt Farniok this year.

It doesn't sound like any of the true freshmen offensive linemen will play this fall. That's not a great surprise. Frankly, the Huskers are best served if players like Farniok, Boe Wilson, John Raridon and Bryan Brokop can spend a year on campus working on their craft behind the scenes.

Riley said he knows they are going to be a good group. "They'll probably all redshirt together, but that's OK, because they'll be fun to work with through time."

Speaking of time, yeah, curtain goes up in three weeks.

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

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