2023 Preview: Specialists

Scholarship Returning: Timmy Bleekrode, Brian Buschini

Scholarship Lost: None

Scholarship Gained: Tristan Alvano, Marco Ortiz (Florida)

Phil Steele B1G Special Teams Rankings:
Penn State
Ohio State
Michigan State

Not a ton to say here. For years Frost and his staff tried coaching special teams from the analyst position, not having an on the field coach. We committed NCAA violations due to it in 2020, were awful in 2021, then finally had Bill Busch help us out and become special teams coach in 2022. This year, Ed Foley will take over those duties, and I expect more of the same from him.

Special Teams can’t be an afterthought, and that’s what it was until Bill Busch got here, but by then it was almost too late. Let’s get into it.


Brian Buschini – Pretty easy here, Buschini was the FCS punter of the year in 2021 and transferred to Nebraska for the 2022 season. He battled injuries a bit last year, but should make this a very good situation for Rhule and his staff.

Long Snapper

Marco Ortiz – Not a ton to go over here either. Nebraska brought in Ortiz from Florida to handle our longsnapping duties. Full disclosure, I think our long snapping (in particular our punts) have been awful the practices I’ve been to. With that said, I had no idea if it was Ortiz or someone else doing it. Ortiz played in 2021, only to not play at all in 2022 for the Gators, and yet somehow is on the Marco Mannelly watch list for 2023 after transferring out. To be fair, he was also on this watch list for 2022 where he didn’t play:

I’m just poking fun. We should be fine here. At minimum serviceable. Long snapping isn’t hard, you can teach someone to do it in a bind.


Timmy Bleekrode – Nebraska brought in Bleekrode for the 2022 season from Furman, and I would call things “choppy” for him, which continued into the spring game. While I think he’s pretty accurate from 35-40 yards in, he just doesn’t have the leg strength to be a threat from 40+.

Tristan Alvano – This is where things get interesting. Nebraska brought in Alvano who didn’t even have an offer until this new staff showed up after he basically won a state title on his own for Omaha Westside in Memorial Stadium. Alvano was kicking without a tee in high school, and has a much stronger leg than Bleekrode. When he committed, he said all the right things, that he was anxious to learn from Bleekrode and wait his turn.

I said it back in July and i’ll say it now, Bleekrode needed to solidify himself and I don’t know if he did that. I think if we go with Bleekrode it would be due to wanting to preserve a redshirt for Alvano. But I think the true freshman wins out when depth charts are released.

Kick Returners

We’ve had a few guys mentioned with this, but Ethan Nation if he can withstand the punishment (due to his size) is someone to keep an eye on. Emmett Johnson who admittedly I was not high on as a recruit or in camp seems to be turning some heads and could see action back here. They’ve also been toying with Garcia-Castaneda back there, but with Kemp the primary punt returner i’m not sure you risk that. I think we see Johnson back there against the Gophers.

Punt Returners

When we solidified Kemp transferring here, we promised him starting slot and I have to think punt returner as well. But like I said with Garcia-Castaneda, that’s a slippery slope due to injuries and what-not. I like Kemp to win the job, but could a guy like Nation steal it from him? Possibly.

Short preview this Friday, and I expect the depth chart out today. Monday we will have my thoughts on the depth chart and talk about what we got right and where we whiffed. Tuesday will be the season prediction and in-depth breakdown. Wednesday we will have our Minnesota preview and prediction. 6 more days!

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2 thoughts on “2023 Preview: Specialists

  1. I agree with the FG kicking duties, maybe let him sit until that last 4 games and bowl game to preserve his redshirt.. With the possibility of Billy being 1 and Nation being 1a, maybe see Nation out there for most and only if we need something big put back Billy out there? would help Billy get through a season in the BIG10.. i’m hoping and excited to see how the kick off coverage goes, better with better faster athletes on the field? if we can excel there our defense is 100% better off.. Thanks as always for the information, very appreciated!!

    1. I’m curious if they’ll be able to let Alvano sit out if he’s a weapon, our first two games we may need all the scoring we can get.

      I’m really curious about the returner stuff, but i’m glad we seem to at least have some options.

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