The Nebraska football program took a hit on Saturday as offensive lineman Nouredin Nouili announced on social media he is ineligible for the 2022 season due to a failed drug test.
My Statement pic.twitter.com/TLruOkIFrR
— Nouredin Nouili | ⁶³ (@NouredinNouili) June 25, 2022
Head coach Scott Frost issued a statement of support for Nouili.
“We will fully support Nouredin Nouili as continues his academic and athletic career at the University of Nebraska,” Frost said. “He is an outstanding young man, who made a mistake that will force him to miss the 2022 season and forfeit a year of eligibility. Nouri will be a full participant in practice this fall, and we look forward to him resuming his playing career in 2023.”
Nouili’s absence adds yet another layer of uncertainty to one of the most crucial position groups on the team—offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Nouili, a former Colorado State transfer, was a projected starter at left guard, the position he held for the final seven games last year. The Frankfurt, Germany, native and Norris (Neb.) High School product started the 2021 campaign as a walk-on, but played well enough to earn a scholarship before the Ohio State game in November.
The news puts more on the already-full plate of first-year Huskers’ offensive line coach, Donovan Raiola. Raiola inherits an o-line that must replace a three-year starter at center, Cam Jurgens, and right guard Matt Sichterman. On top of that, two projected starters, Turner Corcoran and Teddy Prochazka, did not practice this past spring as they rehabbed prior injuries.
Raiola is now tasked with finding the best combination along the o-line, minus Nouili. The status of Prochazka will be important to watch going forward as it could help determine who plays where along the line. The 6-9, 305-pounder played in five games and started two at left tackle last year as a true freshman before suffering a season-ending injury against Michigan. Although Prochazka doesn’t have much experience, the coaching staff is high on the potential of the Elkhorn South grad.
Who will replace Nouili at left guard? There are plenty of options.
Depending on if Prochazka is ready to pick up where he left off at left tackle, Corcoran could be an option to play left guard. The 6-6, 300-pounder started nine games at left tackle last season and two at right tackle. He’s athletic enough to play guard or center as well.
“Turner’s a guy I think is probably capable of playing all five positions if we needed him to,” Frost said earlier this year. “He did a great job at left tackle, looked great at right tackle when we moved him over when Teddy (Prochazka) played. Teddy and Turner are both gonna miss spring with injuries. So they’re around and learning and able to do some things, but again, that’s going to help some other guys get reps. And Turner in particular, we’re probably going to have to figure out where he fits the best.”
Others who have experience playing left guard include Trent Hixson and Ethan Piper. The 6-4, 320-pound Hixson, though, has been working all spring at center, and would likely start there if a game was tomorrow. Hixson, a sixth-year veteran, started every game at left guard in 2019 and two last season. Piper, a 6-3, 305-pounder from Norfolk Catholic High School, started seven games at left guard in 2020 and the first three games last year before being benched.
If Hixson were to slide to guard, Corcoran could be an option at center, though the Kansas native has no college experience playing it. That move might be risky with just a fall camp to prepare before playing Northwestern on Aug. 27.
Broc Bando and Henry Lutovsky are options to play guard—both on the left and right—as well. But so is first-year Husker Kevin Williams Jr., an Omaha native who transferred in this offseason from Northern Colorado, where he started games at both guard and tackle. The 6-5, 330-pound Williams has the most starting experience, albeit at the FCS level, out of the duo of Bando and Lutovsky.
At right tackle, Bryce Benhart returns after a poor 2021 season, but whether he starts or not depends on how well Prochazka knocks the rust off. If Prochazka does well at left tackle, Corcoran would likely start over Benhart at right tackle, if, of course, he’s not moved to guard or center. Benhart, a 6-9, 330-pounder, played in every game last year and started 10 contests at right tackle.