OXFORD, Miss. — True freshman offensive lineman Nick Broeker made his debut against Arkansas Saturday, alternating with senior starter Michael Howard at left tackle for the Rebels, and the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Springfield, Illinois native says he enjoyed his first home game at Vaught-Hemingway.
“It was pretty fun,” Broeker said, smiling. “Obviously, growing up, it was a dream come true to play in a college football game, after watching all my life. So, I mean, being able to soak it all in was awesome for sure.”
Broeker, who grew up watching Big Ten football, was struck by the sheer size of the Rebels’ crowd. “Just the amount of people there,” Broeker began, when asked what surprised him in his first game. “Honestly, I mean, growing up when we were playing high school football, it’s nothing like the Vaught or playing SEC football,” he said.
He also noticed the increased speed of the game. “Obviously, you kind of adjust all summer and through fall camp, but just being live in the game, it’s definitely a lot different.”
Rotation at left tackle keeps Rebs fresh
There are not many teams in the country that have a rotation of players at left tackle. It’s a position usually occupied by one player throughout almost the entirety of a football game. Broeker was asked if he thinks alternating series affects his ability to play.
“Not really,” he answered. “I mean, sometimes it is hard to get in a rhythm, but I think it helps me rest to get that one series off. I think it helped Mike (Howard) in the same sense. You know, he’s able to rest,” said Broeker. “And, while you’re sitting out, you can kind of see things from the sideline that you’re not seeing while you’re in the game,” he added.
Broeker says he benefits from the older o-linemen who have been quick to help him learn.
“I think because of the older guys, you know, Alex (Givens), Mike (Howard), Ben (Brown), Royce (Newman), Eli (Johnson), all of them, Bryce (Mathews). They’ve really me taken under their wing, and they make sure I know all my plays and all my calls, all the checks.”
OL Nick Broeker
‘Best-conditioned, most-disciplined team’
One interesting fact to note, on all four of the Ole Miss touchdown drives, Broeker was in at left tackle–which could offer an indication of how well the true freshman performed against the talented front seven of Arkansas.
In the fourth quarter, fatigue appeared to set in on the Arkansas defense, but the Rebels kept on pounding the football inside. Broeker says the Rebels’ conditioning in camp helped prepare the team for battles late in the game.
“I think in fall camp, being in the heat all day and (offensive coordinator) Rich Rod’s offense (helped prepare them). He wants us to go fast, fast, fast tempo, and I think that’s one of our advantages,” Broeker explained.
“You know, he always preaches that we’re gonna be the best-conditioned, most-disciplined team in college football. And I think, just having that mindset of we’re gonna be in shape, it really helps us on Saturday.”
Nick Broeker on Rich Rod’s conditioning philosophy
Rodriguez on Broeker: "Nick battled. He's a tough guy. Really, that was his first game experience and gave us a lot of confidence. We thought he was ready to be a part of the rotation and he's got to be."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 9, 2019
Getting stronger a priority
While he was still in high school, Broeker played at around 270-pounds; however, at the start of Ole Miss fall camp, he weighed in at 305 pounds. But playing in the SEC, Broeker believes he has more work to do.
“I definitely need to get a lot stronger,” he said. “I think that was my main emphasis. You know, after signing, I was getting in the weight room and getting stronger. In high school, I was just a lot bigger than everybody.
“I mean, once you get to SEC football, you’re seeing interior guys who are consistently the first round, second round draft picks. So, that is my main thing, always getting stronger.”
Broeker on playing against SEC defensive linemen
Earlier this week, head coach Matt Luke commented on his young lineman’s performance. “I thought he played well,” said Luke.
“Nick is a guy where you are never going to have to worry about his effort. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Again, a lot of room for improvement, but I like the energy. He helped keep us fresh and made Michael Howard play better, because he was more rested in the fourth quarter.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Nick Broeker
— Noah Newman (@NoahNewmanWJTV) September 9, 2019
Expect to see more of the same against Southeastern Louisiana this weekend with Howard and Broeker splitting reps at left tackle. It seems to be paying dividends so far.
One thing is clear; with the experience he is gaining this year, Broeker is going to be a cornerstone for this offensive line in the upcoming football seasons.