This is a series taking a look at each position on Nebraska’s 2023 roster. It’s a brief glimpse on the most intriguing aspects of each position.
If Nebraska’s fortunes turn in 2023, it’ll be on the back of the offensive line. The Huskers suffered from roster depletion and a mismatch in philosophical direction among the coaching staff last year. Fans noticed.
Head coach Matt Rhule arrived and immediately started flipping the script. He publicly stated he didn’t buy into the narrative that the offensive line was an issue last year. He retained offensive line coach Donovan Raiola, the only holdover from last season. The offensive line led the Huskers out of the Tunnel Walk during the Red-White Game. Nebraska’s staff heavily recruited the offensive line to close the 2023 class, snagged a few from the transfer portal and went to work in spring practice. All in an effort to lead Nebraska’s resurgence.
Raiola caught up with Greg Sharpe earlier this summer and talked about the promise on the offensive line. He talked about nearly each member of this fall’s unit and laid out the work they’ve each done.
Among a multitude of returning players are a few new faces. Nebraska brought in Ben Scott, a veteran starter at Arizona State, big bodied freshman Jacob Hood from Georgia and young spring addition Tyler Knaak from Utah. Hood and Knaak are likely long-term projects on the offensive line. Scott, meanwhile, is likely going to start at center when Nebraska travels to Minnesota for the season opener.
Norfolk native Ethan Pieper will likely occupy the right guard position. Nouredin Nouili looked good in spring ball and could return to his post at left guard. Pieper filled in at left guard in eight starts last season while Nouili was barred from competition. Competition at tackle should get interesting this fall between Teddy Prochazka, Turner Corcoran and Bryce Benhart. Prochazka, back from injury and looking ready to play, should find a home at tackle. He started three games there last season and a few the season prior before both ended due to injuries. Corcoran is another big-bodied option at tackle with a veteran presence on the line. He started the final nine games at left tackle last season. Benhart gained praise from both Raiola and Rhule. The head coach said Benhart could become a consistent NFL player. From that, one can assume he’s in a good position to start at one of the tackles this fall.
Coaches know the team needs depth on the line. That’s where some walk-ons could truly provide a lift. Keegan Menning, Joey Mancino, Dylan Parrot and Justin Evans-Jenkins all played well in the Red-White Game. Their detail-oriented spring practices laid a foundation they can run with going forward. They could step into the line with scholarship body Henry Lutovsky. Early enrollee Gunner Gottula showed his promise in spring ball and gained shoutouts from Rhule and Raiola. What his contributions are in year one of Big Ten football makes a hazy picture. He has to adjust to the speed of the game but his body needs to match those of the Huskers’ meaty opponents. The same could be said for Sam Sledge, Grant Seagren and Brock Knutson.
The biggest difference in the room is the personnel in the coaches’ office. Unlike previous years, the offensive coordinator and head coach both have experience coaching the offensive line. Marcus Satterfield told local media that experience changed how he calls plays to put the line in a better position. Couple that with the changes to tight end, adding additional punches to the line, brings energy among the group. All in hopes of turning the page and returning to success.