“Five guys as one” is Donovan Raiola’s mantra in the offensive line room, to the point where he’s hesitant to single out any one player in interviews, instead steering the conversation back to the team dynamic.
The imagery he uses to hammer this concept home with his group is a picture of long-time Chicago Bears center and close friend Olin Kreutz fist-bumping his line mates, getting them on the same page and firing them up for the next play.
The Huskers, led by senior center Trent Hixson, have adopted that practice.
“Trent has done a great job,” Turner Corcoran said. “Everyone on the offensive line, I think across the board, has done a great job, just fist-bumping, getting everybody back in. It doesn’t matter what happened last play, we’ve got to attack this play.”
That togetherness has been important for a unit that has seen players in and out of the lineup with injuries and position rotation. That includes Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka, two returning starters who missed all of spring ball.
“Since the winter, a lot of us, the entire offensive line has done a really good job of sticking together as one group — going to the weight room, going to lunch, going to dinner, walking up to meetings all together,” Corcoran said. “So we’re all a pretty cohesive, tight-knit group, and you could ask anyone on the team, they make fun of us because we tuck our shirts in. We do small things together … It doesn’t matter what five you roll out there, or six, we’re going to play ball.”
Both Prochazka and Corcoran returned in time for the start of fall camp, though Corcoran has missed some time with minor injuries. The third-year sophomore said this year has been the first true fall camp he’s experienced at Nebraska.
“It’s a grind, because last year I was out for most of it, and then the year before that, we had like a two or three-week fall camp because of COVID,” Corcoran said. “But this year it was kind of like a true fall camp for myself and everyone in my class. And so I understand the grind now, I understand everything about it. And once you understand it, you know how to attack it, and I thought I’ve done a good job of doing that.”
Corcoran said he feels camp has gone pretty well for him personally as he’s recovered from his injury and adjusted to his new position coach in Raiola.
“There are things I’ve got to work on, both in pass and run blocking, but Coach Raiola and coach [Aaron] Coeling, they’ve both done an amazing job with instilling their ideas and their their run and past schemes into our system,” Corcoran said. “Everything is just coming together really nicely right now.”
Corcoran spent most of last season at left tackle, with a brief stint at right tackle. However, he said he’s currently working at left guard, though Raiola said that hasn’t been “set in stone” as his position. Corcoran is embracing the shift and said it hasn’t been a major adjustment for him.
“I’m rarely in a two-point stance,” Corcoran said. “That’s the only way that I really look at it. It’s still football, I’m still where I want to be: at Nebraska and on the offensive line. So this is exactly how I think that I should be playing.”
Corcoran took his lumps in his first full season as a starter, and he wasn’t alone. He faced some of the best pass-rushers in the country last season, which taught him something about what it takes to succeed in the Big Ten.
“There’s a lot of dudes in the Big Ten,” Corcoran said. “We’re playing dudes like Aidan Hutchinson, George Karlaftis, even playing Oklahoma, that [Nik] Bonitto dude. Every single week. There’s no off week. I knew that last year and I know that again this year, and being able to get those young guys instilled into that, the guys on our look squads, ‘Hey, we’re going up against a challenge this week. Hey, we’re going up against another challenge next week.’ So you’ve got to be able to get those dudes to build that foundation.”
The Huskers have a lot of experience returning along the offensive line, but they lost the most vocal members of the group with the departures of Cam Jurgens and Matt Sichterman. Heading into his second season as a likely starter, Corcoran is looking to step up his leadership alongside others like Hixson to fill the void.
“Last year we had Cam Jurgens on the offensive line,” Corcoran said. “He was a great dude, a great leader, definitely a guy that I looked up to in his football sense and his leadership sense, too. So I’ve taken bits and pieces of his stuff and kind of tried to work it back into myself. Because back in my senior year of high school, I was a leader on that team. And going from freshman year to sophomore year of college, I have to take a step back, have to really see everybody’s views on the team and stuff like that. So I’ve got to know how to approach someone when they’re not playing well, whether I’ve got to get on them a little bit or if I’ve got to hold back and just be more loving.”
The fall camp grind has come to an end and the Huskers have firmly moved into game preparation mode. Corcoran and the offensive line are eager to show off the work they’ve put in against Northwestern. Next stop: Ireland.
“We had a lot of time over the summer where we were in that weight room, we were on the field, really busting our tails to have a really good season this year,” Corcoran said. “And I think that’s the mindset that the team has taken on and I that’s the mindset that we’re going to take into the season.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.