Husker notes: Nebraska’s options at center come into focus, but Huskers still considering ‘any possibility’

Husker notes: Nebraska’s options at center come into focus, but Huskers still considering ‘any possibility’
Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin singled out Cole Conrad as someone who could start at center next season. "We're fortunate to have him," Austin said. (World-Herald News Service)

Greg Austin fielded all sorts of questions from fans during his Husker Nation Tour trip through southeast Nebraska on Tuesday. About the defense. The Unity Council. Former UCF star Shaquem Griffin.

But the most common query for the Huskers’ offensive line coach was more predictable: Who is the starting center?

“We have to play the guys that are here, and one of the guys that is here is Cole Conrad,” Austin said. “We’re fortunate to have him. He did some things for us in the spring.”

Conrad, a senior who made seven starts at the position last year while missing five games with an injury, hasn’t been guaranteed the job, of course.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Conrad also has college experience as a tackle and guard and brings versatility to a line that returns five players who started at some point last season.

Nebraska also tried others at center in the spring, including seniors Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster, redshirt freshman walk-on Hunter Miller and true freshman Will Farniok. Conrad missed much of the spring with a separate injury along with Michael Decker, who started five games at center in 2017 but retired from football last month.

“You gotta have answers,” Austin said. “I think that spring football was a major step forward in us getting those questions answered. We haven’t closed the door on any possibility, whether it be an outside source or somebody from within. But we’re still working through that position and trying to get it as solid as we feel confident it needs to be during the season.”

Austin said the group as a whole is doing an “awesome job” in summer conditioning, just like it did in the winter and spring. One lineman in particular he said “looked pretty damn good” is redshirt freshman and former Lincoln Southeast product Broc Bando.

“You can tell they’re making the gains that they need to make,” Austin said of the linemen. “It’s showing on their faces and showing on their bodies.”

Matt Davison encourages scholarship recipients to reflect on how they influence others

William Kearney stood beaming onstage, trophy and certificate in hand, as a roomful of his most ardent supporters clapped and cheered.

His recognition Wednesday as a Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands five-time scholarship recipient meant more than just one picture-perfect moment. It meant his future.

Without the scholarship, he said, he would not be studying information technology at Metropolitan Community College.

“I feel like I wouldn’t even be in college, to be completely honest,” Kearney said. “This scholarship has given me the opportunity to attend college and not have to work full time.”

Kearney was among 52 high school, college and graduate students to be recognized as scholarship recipients by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands. Though their universities span the country and their majors range from engineering to social work, the scholars all had one thing in common: success built on a foundation of support provided by the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Matt Davison, associate athletic director for Husker football and the event’s keynote speaker, encouraged the young people to take advantage of the “unbelievable” opportunities afforded them.

“That’s what today is about, is trying to help all of you, give you a bright future,” Davison said. “You’ve been given this opportunity. What are you going to do with it?”

Davison, a receiver for Nebraska, recalled advice that former Husker coach Tom Osborne gave him during his freshman year: Think about the end of your life and reflect on how others will remember you.

That type of self-reflection helps build leaders and make any group special, Davison said.

“Leadership is a word that gets thrown around a lot,” he said. “Leadership as it’s defined is social influence — how are you influencing those people around you on a daily basis?”

Before the students paraded across the stage to be honored, Dr. Dele Davies, a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs board of directors, reflected on the importance of education in society. Davies, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the club offers a safe environment that helps embolden children to chase their dreams through education.

“We’ve seen the impact a scholarship can make,” Davies said.

Giving a young person the chance to pursue education instead of getting a full-time job, he said, can “mean the difference between graduating or dropping out of school.”

Such was the case for Kearney, who said his involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs throughout middle and high school kept him out of trouble. In February, he will become the first in his family to graduate from college, with an associate degree in information technology.

“I just want to thank the club for giving me the opportunity to attend college,” Kearney said, “and being there to support me.”

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