Arguably the worst offensive line i’ve seen in a Nebraska uniform took the field last year for the last season under the old regime. It was painful to watch the lack of development when we had a majority of our starting offensive line be 4 stars. And to really confuse things, the coach of the worst position group i’ve seen in quite some time got retained.
Quite frankly, I think Rhule knows we weren’t any good and he wants to show that he can develop and make us good in spots that we weren’t before, with the same coach that everyone thought wasn’t any good. Not a bad carrot that he is Dylan’s uncle as well, but i’ll table that for now.
But I have to be honest, i’m actually intrigued with what this position group COULD be. It’s well documented that I thought our S&C was doing our guys a disservice by just trying to add weight on guys while our OC and HC simultaneously wanted a “spread you out” offense that put our guys in space when they couldn’t freaking move. I was just screaming for us to go more north and south, if we are going to recruit and try to make massive humans, don’t make them go lateral. Get people moving towards the endzone not the sideline. I think Rhule’s offense will do just that, and further he will be able to develop guys at a much better and faster pace. While we’ve lost close to a dozen offensive linemen from last year between scholarship players and walk-ons, Rhule still has more bodies to choose from (with more talent according to recruiting stars I might add) than he has had at either of his previous two collegiate stops.
Let’s start with the biggest addition
Like I told you with Kemp in the WR preview… Ben Scott is transferring here to start and be a big piece of what we do. He has played pretty much all over the line, but Nebraska seems to have decent interior OL depth while needing help at center (loss of Hixson) or at tackle (injuries and bad play). I look for Raiola and Rhule to figure out who our best other 4 are and plug Scott in accordingly. I think if the coaches can get Benhart, Prochazka, or Corcoran up to speed at tackle that we will see Scott at the center spot.
The big 3
Speaking of Prochazka, Benhart, and Corcoran, there’s a lot up in the air. Teddy has to be healthy from his knee injury, Benhart just quite frankly has to be better, and Corcoran needs to find his best spot. In my opinion we need 2 of these guys to hit at tackle so we can get Scott at the center spot.
So here’s where it gets interesting with what I said with the above 3… our depth at the interior seemingly is pretty good. Nouilli if he can be good when he’s not Lattimer’d up on roids seems like a great person to have back. Ethan Piper has started games for us many times and actually started looking much better towards the end of the season last year so could he fill a void at guard or even center if we need Scott at tackle? The other guy i’ll lump into the interior with these guys is Henry Lutovsky where I think he should play at some point, will that be this year?
So that’s 7
So with Scott, Prochazka, Benhart, Corcoran, Nouilli, Piper, and Lutovsky that gives you 7 dudes that if they were starting along the line i’d feel pretty good about it. I do still feel the sting from the Stanford OT that committed then took off to Oklahoma, because if he showed up we have 2 for sure starters and finding 3 starters between those remaining 6 guys. But it is what it is, I think Rhule can find the right balance and a more than serviceable line with these guys.
The incoming freshmen
Nebraska has 6 incoming true freshmen in Gunnar Gottula, Brock Knutson, Sam Sledge, Mason Goldman, and Jason Maciejczak. While I think a couple of these guys have the stature to be able to play as true freshmen, i’m not entirely sure they can be significant as first year guys. With that said, I actually like their chances better than a couple of the next guys.
I was never really on board with the Justin Jenkins commitment, I feel like we just didn’t have anyone committed and we couldn’t get blanked. Jacob Hood the transfer from Georgia has a longgggg ways to go to be ready to play in terms of being in shape.
Walk-ons that Rhule has mentioned
Rhule stated we are a bit thin at the OL so there are obviously some walk-ons that may need to get significant reps in practice. Dylan Parrott, Keegan Menning, Ezra Miller and Joey Mancino he said have a chance to really make a name for themselves while we have some guys out with injury. While i’d be shocked if they ended up starting, getting some reps to give rests or during an injury could make some sense with one or two of them.
Speaking of lack of linemen available
I am going to be curious how the walk-on program goes with Rhule. The guy is doing a great job in pretty much all areas, but our walk-on program made it so we typically had about 20 linemen ready to practice every spring. This isn’t a knock on him he’s 3 months in, i’m just curious where it will go with how they get some of these guys or create the depth with walk-ons. Us having not enough linemen doesn’t necessarily concern me, but it can make things more difficult to practice.
What’s really weird typing this though is the fact that it’s weird for us at Nebraska, but for Rhule he actually has more people available than he has had at any of his other stops. So maybe I should stop overanalyzing it.
The bottom line for me is I think we developed awfully in the weight room, on the practice field, and our offense didn’t suit who we had the last 5 years. So it makes almost too much sense that we were terrible along the OL. People forget Austin and Frost got into it because he adamantly disagreed with our offensive scheme because he knew that wasn’t our guys strengths. We tried giving him ‘run game coordinator’ title but in the end it didn’t work.
While I can’t speak to much of how the weight room is developing us, I think Rhule and Satterfield will at least know what our guys are capable of and tailor to that. They won’t just try to assert their plays or offense. Call me dumb, but I think we will at least be an offensive line we can run behind a bit in 2023.
I am not sure if I can get my practice report up tomorrow, if not it will be out next week along with a couple more position previews.
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22 thoughts on “Spring 2023 Position Previews: Offensive Line”
SSO, I think that the new S&C program is a real wild card here. Like you, I’ve been very critical of the past S&C program…I couldn’t believe how stiff and unbalanced our linemen on both sides of the ball have looked the past few years. I feel like both lines are going to be better this year, if only because they have new trainers. Because I love koolaid, I’m thinking and hoping that we may see dramatic improvements from the combo of new S&C and new offensive/defensive strategies.
I would agree. While “highlights” are only an indicator of 1% of what’s going on, the highlights are typically what the strength coaches focus on or are putting emphasis on. Previous regime we had tweets with 7 plates on and how much we were lifting, we saw on Saturdays how unathletic and stiff we looked. This staff showing a lot more speed work and drill work mixed in with some lifting. Cautiously optimistic here.
Can one year of off season training be enough to change the flexibility, agility and speed enough to make a difference, if its done well?
I have always said you need a good year in a new program to correct or change anything. But you can see differences pretty quickly. I’ll say that Bryce Benhart looks much different. They are focusing on speed which is awesome.
I like many was skeptical of hanging on to Raiola as OL coach. It doesn’t bother me too much anymore, I guess I’m currently believing that Rhule will have a tight oversight in that area, and will have to wait a few years to see where things pan out.
Also, I feel like I’ve been internally complaining about a bad OLine since Pelini was here(don’t get me started on my thoughts about 2 family members starting for us). I feel like it’s hard to pinpoint what ratio of head coach, OL coach, S&C, and overall program direction caused our OL to be so bad, but I’m hoping with a new program direction we’ll see overall improvements within a few years, OL included.
I don’t expect us to be bulldozing Michigan like Georgia did, but with our talent we shouldn’t be struggling against the Northwesterns of the world.
I think i’m right there with you. With Rhule having his hands all over that position group i’m not too concerned.
I actually was giving high praise to some of our lines back in the Pelini days. I remember starting 3 walk ons on the interior for our conference title team and being in shock of what we were able to do offensively. But to your point, was always a bit skeptical of some of the centers we would run out there. However, behind Hickman who was a stud, our second best center in my opinion was Justin Jackson who we moved over from defense. So the development and coaching was there in my opinion.
I am excited to see what we can do against the Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesotas of the world. I’m not sure if it’s because the coaches thought we couldn’t, but we never tried to just run right at them. Even in the Covid year where the Gophers traveled with 40 scholarship players we were throwing the ball everywhere.
Good to see a Justin Jackson reference. He really was a good center. I thought he was going to make it in the NFL until he had a horrific ankle injury late in his senior season. Fun fact, his dad was my center on our flag football team for many years. That family grew them big and mean.
lol him driving around on a scooter with Steinkuhler always made me laugh. But ya, that dude was underappreciated for sure.
Yeah I don’t doubt our line was good under some Pelini teams, I definitely didn’t bother to analyze it year by year, just feel like it’s been a really long time since there’s been a top to bottom decent product
You aren’t wrong… the never were dominant in my opinion. They just were good enough to get it done if that makes sense.
Really appreciate the optimism. The OL and DL are what have me concerned short term. At this point I just don’t care about the recruiting profile of guys who have been here 2+ years. Corcoran has potential inside and maybe even RT but I can’t stomach him at LT again. Its hard for me to see Benhardt positively contributing anywhere. Piper and Nouili are wild cards and Prochazka is so unknown with 2 major injuries in 2 years. That Stanford could would have been huge even just for a year.
One disagreement to above is while you’re spot on with Frost/Austin through 2021, last years offense under Whipple was a lot of pass pro and fairly bland zone runs where our guys could get downhill. We also had them lose a lot of weight in hopes they’d move better. They looked worse than the prior cluster and Rhule may be attributing a lot of that to Whipple who deserves a lot of criticism. Our OL looked really unathletic across the board and had such poor technique they weren’t going to move anybody. I agree with you on S&C but until I see it I can’t believe changing systems and coaches will flip the narrative without a talent infusion. What I do appreciate with Rhule and staff is they have experience here and lets face it, at Temple he didn’t exactly have top shelf OL to build a power run game with but he got it done. For this year I’m looking for progress and trend. I’m ok with an ugly September if its paired with a strong November.
I think i’m delusionally (is that a word) in regards to the OL. Or maybe it’s overconfidence in Rhule at that spot? Or even me thinking there’s just no way we can be as bad as we were last year and years prior so even a slight improvement will look markedly different?
You’re right though, the new offense and all of the changes didn’t really work either. Which is a concern I brought up with past staffs on defense. Banker defense, Banker rugby style defense (changing force), Diaco defense, Chinander defense, some of our defenders had to wait until year 5 until they were doing the same thing for two years in a row and it showed on the field.
We need more talent, no doubt about it. I actually am curious your thoughts on the 6 incoming true freshmen on the line. There’s a couple I like, there’s a couple that I have the same opinion as I do Jenkins and they were just a bit of a reach. Then a couple that it will all depend how they develop.
Well in fairness the OL was so bad the last couple of years we almost have to progress here. What I always caution people with is that OL and interior DL are the spots that take the longest to develop (true for pros too). A lot of these guys could physically dominate HS competition and its just not going to happen against B10 lines. So when we discuss this years OL class I preach caution to anyone discussing these guys this year. They can all benefit from a redshirt but we probably burn one redshirt and have another use the 4 game rule because that’s where we’re at.
That said, I like this class and am really excited to see what Rhule and team do here. I think Gottula was an underrated recruit. I’m high on Knutson too. Sledge can play for us but won’t be a star. The other 2 pique my interest. This is Rhule’s staff seeing some talent and saying we can develop it. I don’t think they expect either to be a star but in a few years they feel like these guys can compete which is a lot more than what Austin was getting us. That said, I don’t see any of these guys as a bookend LT (Gottula looks like a good RT or interior guy to me). That’s what we haven’t landed for years and this staff has to fix it (hopefully Teddy P does that). I think what’s most important is we start the development process with this group and got a couple transfers. Next year I think we are looking for 2 more transfers to bridge the gap too. Year 3 is when I think we have our OL in a decent enough spot we don’t have to worry but won’t be dominating.
Oh and I’m curious to see how long Jenkins lasts. He was brought in by Raiola after the coaching changes as we had 0 OL commits. No doubt a reach but one signed off on by our current OL coach.
Spot on… I always say how Hutmacher just physically overpowered South Dakota competition and said he was 2-3 years away from playing. I also talk about how you can play at WR and RB as true freshman because you aren’t playing with grown men along the lines and it’s more about speed than strength.
Jenkins is getting a ton of reps with Scott out, i’m a little bit more happy with him than I originally thought but still think we are in trouble if he’s trotting out there in 2023. He’s only in his second year though so I owe him time to develop.
Completely agree. One add on I’d say about the OL talent we got this year is these guys look a lot like the OL we see signing with MN and IA every year except those guys develop them. I heard Jenkins was getting good reviews and I think it just highlights the talent issue. If we do our job developing him I think he can be a pretty good center but I think he’s at least 18 months from that point. He’s going up against a pretty weak interior DL in practice for now.
Rhule has also directed his optimism to fixing the poor install that went on in recent years. Frost could put together a game plan to shred almost any defense but the guy was a terrible manager and totally jacked up the install so we were always talking about how close we were if we could just execute a couple spots better. We’re pretty lucky the public doesn’t know much about what went on with Whipple last year because I think Rhule is right that our OL had no chance (and our backup QB’s even less). I think this staff knows how to teach technique and they know how to install their system. I just don’t know if we have a great play caller yet.
I think by the time all was said and done in 2022, kids were being asked to do so much that they had no clue. It’s like what I brought up about the defense having 5 different things to do in 5 years and then guys like the Davis twins who were in the junior olympics for another sport that Penn State offered to play football ,we were lucky enough to get but couldn’t develop them at all. They still end up getting drafted.
I’m hoping some continuity will help us there.
The bright side of being low on DL this spring is getting the guys a lot of reps, that should be good for development. It may also help the line gel a bit quicker if they aren’t splitting as many reps. I know injuries have played a part but it seems like under the previous staff the line would struggle mightily the first half of the season and then finally gel and play decent towards the end. It would be great if we could get our best five out there right off the bat. It’s hard to point to any lineman, other than Cam Jurgens, that clearly developed under the last staff. Also, I’d argue that Cam was such a good athlete that he was probably going to excel no matter where he went so I’m not willing to give them much credit there. Then you throw in guys like Farniok and Jaimes that never earned any kind of all conference honors here go and go have success in the NFL.
It’s just so crazy at Nebraska having low numbers at any spot in the spring. I believe we had this problem early with Riley and some of the WRs early in his tenure? Might be misremembering there.
I’ll be curious how we see the walk-ons groups growing.
Pretty disappointing that Hood comes in from UGA as a former 4 star and is out of shape. Hopefully some team leaders can light a fire there. One question that seems kinda odd since were looking to subtract scholarship players. Do we look to go a couple below 85 with “suggested attrition” to make room for a transfer or two? Maybe an OL starter looking for better NIL opportunities, perhaps.
I don’t think we have to get under 85. I think we will see attrition through the summer as well. To the point I think you are asking, I believe this staff thought we were great across the board in some areas and once you get into practice you find holes in your team. So they will try to add a few transfers in my opinion after spring ball. Which means you have to come up with more guys to let go.
I thought the physical play of the OL last year was better. Run blocking was better. Pass blocking was still a struggle. But what I saw was more missed assignments. Not blocking the right guy, or missing a blitz pick up. In that case, I think that is teaching, aka the coach. Hope that gets better.
True. And again, probably new scheme and verbiage didn’t help. Which we are doing all over again this year.