Last season, as a true freshman, offensive lineman Grant Newsome had some misgivings about his ability to face a true Big Ten defensive line during a game.

But in his first appearance against Minnesota, he realized that his daily combat with the nation’s fourth-best total defense was enough to prepare him for game time. This offseason, he still gets to go up against what he thinks is one of the best defensive lines in the country.

“We get to practice, as an offensive line, against one of the best defensive lines, if not the best defensive line, in the country every day,” Newsome said. “Football-wise, it was a great experience to get that learning experience on the field. At the same time, it wasn’t as big of an adjustment as I thought it would probably be just because of how great our defensive line is, and that was positive.”

Now, Newsome frequently lines up across from Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton in practice. Newsome says he can hold his ground, but against a defense that’s so stout, he’s always going to be battling in practice.

“Who aren’t some of the toughest guys to block out there?” Newsome said. “They’re just so talented, we’re so deep. We’re going to have two or three lines defensively who are just absolute studs.”

Furthering Newsome’s comfort on the field is the constant direction he has received from offensive lineman Mason Cole. Cole has two years of starting experience as a junior, and following offensive lineman Graham Glasgow’s graduation, Cole is expected to take over at center after playing two seasons at left tackle. As the natural successor at left tackle, Newsome has a true mentor in Cole.

Throughout this offseason, Newsome has gone to Cole for any question he might have, even likening Cole’s football knowledge to that of Glasgow’s. It also doesn’t hurt that of the five offensive linemen who played regularly last season, four will be returning, including fifth-year seniors Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson.

“There’s definitely some pressure (this season), but I think it’s more pressure I put on myself to keep up the standard that Mason set,” Newsome said. “It’s definitely been good, but there’s definitely a long way to go. … (Cole) is so football-smart. He’s just got it all down. Whenever I can tap his brain, I love doing that.”

In 2015, though Newsome enjoyed receiving playing time, he valued his bench time reviewing the starting offensive line’s dynamics. The combination of playing and studying helped Newsome, and now he feels more than ready this offseason.

Last summer was his first offseason experience, and after hustling to keep up with some of his early-enrollee teammates, the first three months felt like a whirlwind. This time around, though, he knows what it’s like to play under the lights and won’t be anxious about getting his first game under his belt.

“It was nice that I had that buffer year to get that experience and, at the same time, watch Mason,” Newsome said. “I really got to understand the tools of the trade through him and (offensive coordinator Tim Drevno).”

Now, with the spring season reaching its peak at the Spring Game next Friday, Newsome will be able to showcase his freshly honed abilities and confidence on the field to try to win the job.

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