Rookie Skoronski fitting right in with Northwestern's veteran offensive line
A little bit more mentoring would have been great.
But Peter Skoronski sure isn't complaining about what he got instead.
A starting spot at left tackle on a Big Ten football team as a true freshman is almost beyond comprehension.
Skoronski, one of the best high school linemen in the country last fall as a senior at Maine South, barely got his bags unpacked at Northwestern before he was being counted on like an upperclassman.
In fact, he's been lumped right in with four sage veterans, starting the first two games of Northwestern's 2-0 season as part of an offensive line that also includes two juniors in Sam Gerak and Ethan Wiederkehr and two fifth-year seniors in Nik Urban and Gunnar Vogel.
"I've been helped a lot by the upperclassmen on the line," said the 6-foot-4, 294-pound Skoronski, who will start the third game of his career Saturday as Northwestern hosts Nebraska at 11 a.m. at Ryan Field (BTN).
"They've given me a lot of advice and they've made the transition so much easier."
Skoronski came to Evanston content to simply learn for awhile.
He thought he was going to be playing behind all-American tackle Rashawn Slater.
But when the Big Ten canceled the 2020 season last summer due to COVID-19 (before reinstating it in September), Slater decided to declare for the NFL Draft.
That opened up a spot for Skoronski, but not before he had time in preseason camp to take away all kinds of tutoring from Slater.
"Obviously, I like the position I'm in now (starting), but it also would have been really great to watch Rashawn for an entire season," Skoronski said. "He's one of the best linemen in the country, and he'll be a first-round draft pick. When we had camp in August, he was still planning to play (at Northwestern) and we worked together quite a bit.
"Rashawn is a great technician and he is dedicated to perfecting his craft and he works so hard on the small details. He helped me with my technique and I was able to observe how he worked and prepared and it really helped me attack the process."
Skoronski says that Slater is still trying to help him.
"He watches our film, and he'll text me," Skoronski said. "He's been a great resource for me."
Skoronski says he could use all the help he can get. A true freshman on the offensive line, particularly at left tackle, is considered very rare.
"(Left tackle) is a tough position in general, no matter how old you are," Skoronski said. "You're having to go against really good defensive ends, and you've got to protect the quarterback's blind side. That's extremely important. You're responsible for a lot, and people expect a lot out of that position."
Skoronski, charged with keeping Northwestern starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey safe, seems to be meeting expectations.
Northwestern's resounding 43-3 victory over Maryland in the season opener on Oct. 24 certainly set the right tone for him.
"I felt a little nervous before the first game," Skoronski said. "You're thinking, 'You know, I was just in high school a couple months ago, and now I'm going against guys who have been in college for maybe four or five years already'. There's a lot of talent in the Big Ten. I don't think it's out of the ordinary to question yourself a little bit.
"But we had such a good first game, and right there I knew I belonged. I think seeing that I've been able to hold my own right away on a Big Ten football team and against these really good players in the conference has really helped my confidence. I'm seeing that I can hang with those guys."
Skoronski says that he is grateful just to get the chance in the first place.
"We were frustrated when we were seeing other conferences play and we weren't playing," Skoronski said. "But then they said we could play, and we were happy. We were just so grateful to be able to play and to be able to play in a safe way.
"When I came here, I wasn't sure that I'd ever start this year, but I thought I'd be able to compete. I'm just glad I'm getting the chance to compete."