April 13, 2010

Defense taking notice of improved o-line play

It's one thing when you hear the praises of Nebraska's improvements along the offensive line from the offensive coaches or the linemen themselves, but it's a whole different story when the same praises come from the guys that go up against the unit every day in practice.

While it may be based on a little more than 12 spring practices, the Huskers' defensive line has been nothing but impressed with the play of their offensive counterparts.

In particular, it's been the fact that the line has finally gotten a chance to get healthy again after essentially the entire unit suffered through a multitude of injuries last season. Now mostly completely healed, the o-line has been giving NU's defensive front all it can handle the past four weeks.

"They're a lot more explosive," junior defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "They're a lot more physical. They're a lot faster, and you see it because they're not so nicked up. You see the guys are kind of fresh now, and you see that burst more than you did last season. Guys who've been feeling good, they're going to be faster and more physical, and that's what we've seen from the o-line this spring."

Even the Huskers' defensive coaches have noticed a spark in the offensive line this spring. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said the unit has been much more physical and has also incorporated some new blocking schemes that have definitely been effective.

On Saturday, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the offense has streamlined its blocking schemes and techniques this off-season to both make things easier to grasp and better perfect the execution on the field.

According to Pelini, the offensive line has responded to the adjustments about as well as anyone could have hoped.

"They are a much more physical group," Pelini said. "I love their schemes. I just think our offense as a whole is making great improvements this spring."

Though the unit as a whole is far healthier than it was at any point last season, it's not as if it hasn't already had its share of injury issues. To start, senior guard Ricky Henry was forced to miss the entire spring while recovering from shoulder surgery.

On Monday it was learned that promising junior tackle Jermarcus Hardrick would have to miss the final two spring practices and the annual Red-White Game on Saturday after undergoing surgery on his broken left hand.

They may be inconsequential at this point in the year, but the Huskers are hoping their o-line can find a way to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible once the season gets underway.

Based on what the unit has shown so far this spring, there's no telling how good the offensive line could be if remains in one piece.

"Right now, I'm seeing some big things from them," Crick said. "They're doing great. There's not one guy who's really slacking. As long as they keep it going, they're going to do some great things this fall."

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