LINCOLN–(NU Athletics Apr. 11)–Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule met with members of the media following spring practice on Thursday.

Rhule spoke to the depth of the offensive line and the competition between veteran and new players.

“I think that the pleasant thing about the o-line is that we have some depth of some guys who could challenge to play. It’s not just like ‘hey, these guys are going to be good players down the line.’ The guys that are running with the twos and threes on the days we do twos and threes, I think some of them are proving that, if given an opportunity, they could play. The offensive line is unique. Sometimes, someone looks like a guard, but when they play tackle, they’re a natural fit and vice versa. I think there’s healthy competition and there’s a lot of depth being built. The young players that have gotten here, they might not think they’re good players yet, but they’re going to be really good players. Grant Brix is doing a great job. Gibson Pyle – really pleased with him. A lot of those guys. I think that tier of guys that have been here for a year or two, I think they’re pushing the older guys. The older guys might not realize that, but as I see it, there’s a bunch of guys I think could play.”

He discussed the development of the running back room and the importance of fall camp for the players.

“I think it’s one of those deals where it’s really going to be about the fall. I’ve seen what Rahmir (Johnson) can do. What I have to make the staff do, is go back and watch the 2021 Michigan game, to see him when he was the featured back. I don’t know why he wasn’t featured back in 2022, but he wasn’t, so it was hard to see. Sometimes you look at a guy like that, like ‘we should play him here and give him this limited role.’ Rahmir was lining up and taking outside zones against Michigan and slicing and dicing. I’ve seen Gabe (Ervin Jr.) at his best. I think we saw Emmett (Johnson) evolving into a guy that can take games over. When you look at the run he had against Purdue at the end of the game to set us up, he’s getting ready to bust out. I’m a big fan of (Kwinten) Ives – every time I talk about Kwinten Ives, he can be this. So this is a big camp for him. Whereas Emmett is trying to take the step into being a dominant player, Kwinten is trying to take the step into ‘hey, I’m going to be here every day and know what I’m doing and be healthy.’ And Dante (Dowdell) is in the same boat. He’s trying to take the step into an every-down back. The things that I see that are positive are really positive. I think a lot of that is going to come to fruition in the fall.”

Rhule talked about how he views Saturday’s scrimmage and what mindset he has when evaluating players.

“It’s just an assessment for where we are right now. I told the players before practice today – a lot of them think in terms of spots. Like, ‘oh, I’ve got my spot’ – I don’t think you really know until a guy has played for you for a couple years, you really don’t know who your starters are until after game two sometimes. You think someone is a starter, then you see them play and it’s really too big for them, or you see someone play and they’re just comfortable. So I don’t really think in terms of spots, I think in terms of development. To me, there’s this line – ‘he’s good enough to win with.’ If you’re above that line, you’re going to play. We’re in the Big Ten. We’re playing in weather, we’re playing on turf. Guys are going to get beat up. You better have, not just three defensive line starters, you better have five or six. I’m just trying to assess where they are right now. A big thing for me is, are they at the right position? What other opportunities should they get moving forward? This is by no means a ‘hey, this decides things’. This is just a statement for where they are.”

The team will continue with its scrimmage on Saturday. The annual Red-White Spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 11 a.m. (CT).

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