LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Andrew Rodriguez has had his patience tested at Nebraska.
The offensive lineman showed up in 2010 as one of the Cornhuskers' most celebrated recruits. He came out of 2012 wondering if he would ever fulfill the expectations that followed him to Lincoln.
"It's the worst feeling when you're told you have all this potential and it's not coming out," he said. "It eats away at you. Is it my effort? What is it? Once you figure it out, you start to see the positive things coming out. It's smooth sailing from here."
Coaches and teammates say Rodriguez, a self-described introvert, has exuded confidence in preseason practices. Asked about that, Rodriguez said it's the result of his gaining a firm grasp of the no-huddle offense and developing the endurance needed to stay on the field for more than a couple of plays at a time.
When the 18th-ranked Huskers open against Wyoming on Saturday, the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Rodriguez is projected to be their starting right tackle.
"This has been his best camp," coach Bo Pelini said, "and he's probably playing the best football he's ever played right now, which I'm pretty excited about."
Rodriguez appeared in every game last season, starting one but generally working as the third tackle in a three-man rotation.
After Nebraska's loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, offensive line coach John Garrison told Rodriguez it was time for him to show everyone why he was a four-star recruit coming out of Aurora (Neb.) High.
"It would be really disappointing for me, as a coach, to have that talent and that potential and to throw it aside," Garrison said. "It's time for me to take the poke and poke him in the side and get him going. That's what I've done."
Rodriguez has had obstacles. A foot injury sidelined him the second half of his sophomore season, and he had to adjust to the move from guard to tackle before last season. At the same time, the Huskers were transitioning in earnest to their hurry-up offense, and Rodriguez's conditioning was lacking.
"A bigger guy like that, if you're not used to it...," Garrison said.
Though Rodriguez's understanding of angles and other nuances of line play has improved, Garrison said, he remains relatively inexperienced in the sport.