Our countdown of the 10 most intriguing Huskers of the 2022 season is back with the top five.
If you need a refresher on the players so far in the countdown, you can find them all right here:
Before we dive into discussing our latest pick, let’s clarify something first: What do we mean by intriguing? Oxford Languages defines intriguing as arousing one’s curiosity or interest. In other words, fascinating. Which 10 Huskers fascinate you the most heading into the season? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
Today’s entry includes two players because we run things, things don’t run we. Also, it’s explained below. Onward . . .
Left-to-right, Teddy Prochazka, Nouredin Nouili, Cameron Jurgens, Matt Sichterman, Turner Corcoran. That’s the starting offensive line Nebraska put on the field against Northwestern. It represented change as the Huskers entered October 2-3 having allowed 18 sacks through five games and averaging 3.1 yards per rush in the previous two games, losses at Oklahoma and Michigan State.
Prochazka became the second true freshman in school history to start a game at left tackle, which bumped Corcoran to right tackle and Bryce Benhart out of the starting lineup. Ethan Piper and Trent Hixson got their shots at left guard before Nouili was inserted against the Wildcats. Jurgens and Sichterman were the holdovers and would start all 12 games last year.
When Nebraska rolled to season-highs (that would hold through the rest of the season) in rushing yards (427), total yards (657) and points (56), it looked like the Huskers had finally found their five. The same group started the following week against Michigan, but when Prochazka was lost for the season against the Wolverines, that was the end of that. Corcoran went back to left tackle, Benhart to right and Nouili kept his job at left guard.
Which is why today’s Most Intriguing entry includes two Huskers instead of one—Corcoran and Prochazka are both important in 2022, but what happens with one impacts the other.
We’ll start with Prochazka. It was a small sample size—and it should be noted, the bulk of it came against the only Big Ten team Nebraska beat last year, an uncharacteristically weak on both sides Northwestern—but encouraging enough that we enter the 2022 season assuming Prochazka will be fully healthy and ready to pick up where he left off. Nebraska putting its best five linemen on the field at any point this year hinges on Prochazka because, as limited a look as everyone had, it’s hard to imagine there being five better linemen in Lincoln right now.
Prochazka is intriguing because of the promise he showed in 2021, but also because the line shakes out in different ways if that left tackle spot is truly his.
If that’s the case, it allows Corcoran the opportunity to find his best fit. Against Northwestern and Michigan, that was right tackle though Scott Frost said in the spring that Corcoran could play all five positions on the line. Center might be off the table thanks to a solid spring from Trent Hixson, leaving either guard spot or right tackle as options.
Despite his struggles to this point, it’s hard to leave Benhart, still just a sophomore though in his fourth year on campus, out of a best-five discussion. He was the 153rd-ranked prospect and 13th-ranked tackle by 247 Sports in the 2019 recruiting class. His play hasn’t matched those rankings yet, but they always linger, either as a reminder of what was supposed to be and isn’t or what still could be and hasn’t yet.
Corcoran was even more highly regarded, the 48th-best player overall and fourth-best tackle in the 2020 class. His play hasn’t matched those rankings yet either, though he’s a year younger and was in his first year as a full-time starter in 2021. Would a change of scenery, most likely at guard, help?
It might not hurt and Nebraska might not have a lot of choice given the loss of Nouili for the season this month due to an NCAA suspension for a banned substance. That’s a presumed starter off the board, and if Prochazka holds down left tackle, Corcoran is one actual starter who needs a place to play.
And need is probably the right word. Since 2011, Corcoran is the third-best player Nebraska has signed by 247 rating and has the highest rating of any player on the roster. A Jurgens-like jump in year three—Corcoran redshirted in 2020—would be a massive development for Nebraska football in 2022.
If it happens at guard, it would also likely mean that Prochazka, the 33rd-best recruit Nebraska has signed since 2011, and Benhart, the 21st-best, were playing close to the presumed talent levels they had coming out of high school. Recruiting rankings are occasionally off, but they’re often not on the whole. When you sign three top-20 tackles in three consecutive classes, you need those players to hit most of the time.
It’s not too late for that to be the case for any of those three. It starts with Prochazka. If he truly has already beaten out two more highly rated tackles, that’s not the worst thing if one of those tackles, and Corcoran has the most flexibility here, makes a move somewhere else.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.