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Husker coordinators hint at changes to starting lineup for Penn State game

Husker coordinators hint at changes to starting lineup for Penn State game

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Nebraska has several young players pushing for playing time.

Nebraska hasn’t released a depth chart this season. But both coordinators indicated Tuesday that significant lineup shuffling could be in the offing ahead of the Huskers’ home opener.

Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick called it an “open competition week” leading into NU’s game against Penn State. That goes for the offensive line, where senior Matt Farniok made his first start at center last Saturday and redshirt freshman Ethan Piper (left guard) made his first career start. That goes for receiver, where freshmen like Marcus Fleming and Zavier Betts played late and combined for seven catches and 92 yards.

And — in the most high profile case — it includes quarterbacks. Junior Adrian Martinez and redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey continue to battle for the starting job amid equal reps with the first team, leaving in doubt whether Martinez will make his 24th career start Saturday or McCaffrey his first. Lubick said each is pushing the other to be better.

“You can make an argument you’d like to have a clear-cut 1,” Lubick said. “But you can also make the argument that you want to have two good quarterbacks that are ready to play.”

Similar jostling is expected on the defensive side, with young players at each level pushing for more field time after strong efforts at Northwestern. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said that includes Class of 2019 recruits like Myles Farmer (safety), Quinton Newsome (cornerback) and Luke Reimer (inside linebacker) along with junior-college transfer and D-lineman Jordon Riley. Some outside ‘backers are making moves too — sophomore Garrett Nelson and juco transfer Pheldarius Payne were effective in more limited roles.

Guys “know that it’s on the line” in practice this week, the coordinator said.

“I’m not looking to bench people; I’m not looking to scare anybody,” Chinander said. “But there’s a lot of young guys that are earning a lot of opportunity and they need reps. And however you practice this week is going to determine how many reps those young guys get and how many reps those older guys get.”

Nelson said his mindset, and that of his teammates, is to earn what he has every day in practice. By Saturday, that effort has hopefully been enough to make the coaches’ personnel decisions more difficult.

“It’s going to come down to who’s playing the most consistent,” Lubick said. “Then, like any position, whoever starts the game is who we think — at that moment — can give us the best chance to win.”

Photos: Nebraska at Northwestern

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