Nebraska’s offense is undergoing yet another change. A new head coach, accompanied by the third coordinator in three seasons. Surrounded by swarming change is some semblance of consistency.
Offensive line coach Donovan Raiola returns as the lone holdover from the previous coaching staff. Players on last year’s team spoke highly of Raiola to the current coaching staff, including some players who already entered the transfer portal. When he found out he’d return as offensive line coach, he called some of the returning players. The coach they worked with the most is staying. They’d have some consistency in a time of abrupt change.
“I was pretty pumped up when he called me and said that Coach Rhule was going to keep him on staff,” offensive lineman Turner Corcoran said on Tuesday, “and like all the guys in the room we were all ready to get pumped up and get some drills done after.”
Raiola immediately stressed improvement to the unit. So far this spring they’re returning to basics, emphasizing hitting certain points of contact and finishing blocks. They’re also working players at different positions to gauge fits. Corcoran, who has done his share of moving around the line already, is working at right guard and tackle so far. He also feels prepared to play center if needed.
“Coaches put people in different spots and it’s not to make you feel uncomfortable, but put you in uncomfortable situations,” he said. “It just keeps me more prepared for whatever comes down the road.”
Arizona State transfer Ben Scott spent entire seasons at center. He’s also working at different positions along the line. Corcoran said the new arrival has become a friend and is easy to get along with. His experience also allows him to fit in easily in the Nebraska line. Head coach Matt Rhule mentioned earlier this week that Scott looks like he’s belonged on the Husker front for multiple years already.
In terms of offensive philosophy, Corcoran explained coordinator Marcus Satterfield’s ideal game plan—fast, simple and powerful. But right now, Nebraska’s not at full strength on the offensive line. Teddy Prochazka is limited this spring because of injury. The Huskers are hovering around a dozen healthy offensive linemen. That’s less than Nebraska’s typical size on the roster but not unusual to Rhule.
“Having 12 linemen on the roster is about what I’m used to,” he said. “I think we have three or four great walk-on offensive linemen who are just great.”
Rhule highlighted Dylan Parrot, Keegan Menning, Ezra Miller and Joey Mancino as promising offensive linemen who could benefit the Huskers if they find the field. They’ll compete throughout the spring to show where they fit best. Beneficial springs could help their standing on the depth chart when Rhule and his staff start going over that in the summer.
Nebraska’s offensive line is also getting a developmental boost from Jacob Hood and Gunner Gottula. Rhule explained Hood faced medical hurdles initially at Nebraska but is back in the fold. Gottula, the Lincoln Southeast standout who enrolled early this semester, has already impressed the head coach.
“Gunner’s done a great job,” Rhule said. “He’s learning left tackle, which is probably the hardest position to learn. He’s going against good players. I’m really, really excited about where he is as a young player.”
The new emphasis on mobility from Corey Campbell and his strength and conditioning staff is already helping the linemen stay in their stance and capably move. Corcoran and Ethan Piper both said they felt agile when speaking this spring.
Coaches ride the fine line between injury prevention and grueling practices. Rhule takes serious thought and consideration into which practices are full, deliberate contact and when they dial some back per NCAA rules. As for the players, they’re taking in as much as they can. They’ll compete on Thursday with some contact and in the team’s first scrimmage on Saturday, which Rhule hadn’t determined a format for as of earlier this week.
“No, we don’t care about the heavy load,” Corcoran said. “We’re out there to compete. We’re out there to take as many reps as we need to.”