Preseason camp will, as always, include some key position battles, but Nebraska's depth chart has already taken an approximate shape coming out of the spring. We're breaking down every spot on the field and who stands where heading into August.
Today we zero in on the offensive, which is among the most veteran group of Bo Pelini's tenure.
Projected Fall Camp Depth Chart
Who everybody is talking about: The narrative goes that the Long brother that Nebraska wanted was actually Jake the tight end, and his brother Spencer was an add-on in the class. Spencer Long started his career along the defensive line before John Garrison saw something in the walk-on from Elkhorn and moved him to the offensive line. That move has so far resulted in two all-Big Ten selections and is likely headed for a third as Long enters his senior season. Nebraska's coaches, in particular Garrison, have been aggressive with pushing Long to get better and not rest on his past success. Long is Nebraska's best run blocker and has gradually improved as a pass blocker throughout his career. Ameer Abdullah has big shoes to fill to replace Rex Burkhead, but Long's leadership and talent are going to be one of the understated reasons that Nebraska is poised for a big offensive season.
Bruntz: Who I'm watching: Jake Cotton: Nebraska always seems to have that one guy on the offensive line who is all effort and controlled rage on every play. Justin Jackson was that guy a season ago, and prior to that, Ricky Henry filled the role. This season, that's likely going to fall on the shoulders of Jake Cotton, who is the likely front-runner to start at left guard. Cotton was having a stellar start to his career before a knee injury derailed things for the 6-foot-6 305-pound junior. Cotton had a solid spring and staked his claim on the starting job. It remains to be seen whether he holds on to the job, but he has the physicality and quickness to be a big time contributor this year.
Schaefer: Who I'm watching: Matt Finnin: Offensive line is the most important unit for the Huskers in 2013. If Nebraska wants to go where no Bo Pelini team has gone before, it will need a big performance from the line and from Brent Qvale. The offensive tackle worked his way into the position last fall and showed flashes of dominance. If Qvale can solidify the left or right side and rotate well with Jeremiah Sirles and incoming JUCO Matt Finnin then he’ll be a big asset. Pass blocking is the key and Qvale spent the spring working on speed rushers.
Newcomer to Watch: Chongo Kondolo
A late addition to Nebraska's recruiting class, Kondolo has versatility to play at a number of positions, having played tackle in junior college, but being recruited as an inside player by the Nebraska coaching staff. Kondolo was set to go elsewhere, but the Nebraska coaching staff put in the time late and snatched him away from a number of SEC programs. Where does Kondolo fit in for this year? It's hard to know. Because of the class schedule at Fresno City College, Kondolo had to stay behind and finish up summer classes while his teammates reported to summer classes. If there are any weak points in the offensive line, however, Kondolo stands a good chance at being able to plug them.
On the horizon
Nebraska scored a big commit in June when offensive guard Tanner Farmer committed to the Huskers while on a camp visit. Farmer held a number of offers from Big Ten programs, and was looking to add more when he shut down his recruitment in June and committed. What is Nebraska getting? At The Opening, Farmer checked in at 300-plus pounds and was dominant against nearly every opponent he faced. A dominant run blocker, Farmer knows he must improve his pass blocking, but Nebraska got a real road grader in its class early -- a big win for the Huskers on the recruiting trail.
The Nebraska offense is getting plenty of publicity in preseason outlooks this summer because of its bevy of skill players who are returning for 2013. Another reason for optimism is a veteran offensive line paced by Spencer Long, and returning starters at four of the five offensive line positions. The tackle play must be better for Nebraska in 2013, with Sirles and Qvale returning. Last year, Nebraska struggled -- as most teams do -- with speed rushes to the outside. That often results in a skittish Taylor Martinez and the breaking down of plays. To be better in 2013, Nebraska must continue the success it has shown in the running game, while being better against the pass rush. Expectations are high for this group, which possess a good amount of depth, and will have even more with Kondolo and Finnin inserting themselves into the rotation as well.