Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin isn't exactly sure what clicked in Broc Bando's mind as he began his ascension in the program.
But Austin can pinpoint when the light came on for the third-year sophomore left tackle.
A 6-foot-5, 310-pounder from Lincoln, Bando at this time last year was a redshirt freshman on the scout team. On Friday mornings in the fall, scout-team players scrimmage before the team's regular practice, and Bando apparently got revved up for those workouts.
"Broc kind of took off from there," Austin said following Wednesday's practice. "He started owning his job, really putting in the effort. He really had a desire. He had an ambition to be better. Sure enough, that carried into spring ball. We saw him come on in spring ball and be a real dude. Come fall ball, he was the same guy."
Come Saturday, it's possible Bando could be Nebraska's starter at left tackle against Illinois in a 7 p.m. game in Champaign, Illinois. The 2-1 Huskers' regular starter at the position, junior Brenden Jaimes, suffered a left-leg injury with 11½ minutes remaining in last week's 44-8 win against Northern Illinois. Although Jaimes practiced Wednesday in a limited fashion, it's unclear whether he'll be ready for duty against the Illini (2-1).
If Jaimes isn't ready, Austin seemingly has ample confidence in Bando. In fact, Austin said, Bando has made more progress than any Nebraska offensive lineman in the system since Husker coach Scott Frost and his staff arrived in late 2017 from Central Florida.
"He's a kid that when we first arrived, it took a long time to figure him out," Austin said. "He's not a weird kid by any means, but I believe as a coach you have to first connect with a kid before you correct him."
Some sort of connection obviously was made.
"He's a stout kid," Austin said. "And then you put the drive and tenacity with it, that's really been the difference with him. Beforehand, he was just kind of here. It was just kind of, 'I play football for Nebraska, I'm from Lincoln, I'm a local kid.' But more recently, about seven or eight months ago, he took ownership, and that ownership has led to his ascension as a player.
"I'm certainly proud of him and his future as an offensive lineman."
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Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters echoed those sentiments Wednesday.
"Broc did a great job Saturday night (after Jaimes went down)," Walters said. "Came in, did what was asked of him, so we’re very confident in him. One of the things we do, and we pride ourselves as coaches in this program, is in fall camp, guys are getting reps. We’re going two fields, so the ones, the twos, the threes, the fours, everybody’s getting reps, and that’s beneficial.
"So we feel like we have depth. We feel like, if a guy goes down we have the 'next man up' mentality, and he stepped in and did a great job Saturday. And if his number is called, we’re confident that he’s going to do the work again this week."
Bando attended Lincoln Southeast as a sophomore before finishing high school at IMG Academy in Florida. A standout at both tackle and guard, he helped the Ascenders finish 11-0 in 2016. Ranked as one of the nation's top 50 offensive guards in the 247Sports composite rankings, he chose Nebraska over offers from Louisville, Mississippi State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Kansas State, among others.
Bando redshirted at Nebraska in 2017 and didn't appear in a game in 2018. But Austin kept pushing Bando. The coach figured out some of the right buttons to push, it seems.
"There's a little direct talk involved, as I like to call it," Austin said. "It's, hey, you need to clean this s- - -t up, you need to get this stuff done, rather than, 'Hey, it's OK.' I think he was kind of used to get treating like that. Whereas now it's know your job, do your job and do it again.
"That's the standard."