As a brand-new coaching staff took their places all around him, offensive line coach Donovan Raiola was the sole Nebraska assistant retained by coach Matt Rhule.
In his first year with the team, Raiola’s unit struggled to find consistent footing. According to Pro Football Focus, Nebraska’s offensive line had the second-worst run blocking and pass blocking grades in the entire Big Ten during the 2022 season. However, Rhule may have seen the building blocks for how he wants Nebraska’s offensive line to function in the future.
“Most important to me, he had been trained in the same system that I’m trained in, and I want us to play that way,” Rhule said of Raiola in late December. “We’re going to have a good offensive line this year, and I like the guys who are in that room already.”
With a mix of returning starters, transfer portal additions and a large incoming freshman class, Nebraska’s offensive line has the potential to make a big step in 2023.
People are also reading…
» Bryce Benhart
» Ethan Piper
» Nouredin Nouili
» Teddy Prochazka
» Turner Corcoran
» Henry Lutovsky
» Hunter Anthony
» Trent Hixson
» Broc Bando
» Kevin Williams
» Brant Banks
» Mason Goldman
» Jason Maciejczak
» Gunnar Gottula
» Jacob Hood
» Brock Knutson
» Ben Scott
» Sam Sledge
» 64.2% of snaps
Nebraska played with six different offensive line pairings during the 2022 season due to a combination of injuries and performance.
Corcoran began the year at left guard but had to deputize at left tackle for eight weeks following an early season-ending injury to Prochazka.
Piper gained a starting role at left guard as a result, and made the spot his own.
Benhart struggled mightily in pass protection at right tackle to begin the season, but a three-week stint for Anthony was short-lived as Benhart regained his starting role and showed improvement to close the year.
Nebraska will have to replace consistent starters at center and right guard following Hixson and Bando’s graduations.
After lacking quality depth in 2022, Nebraska will have scholarship backups at every offensive line position in 2023.
Prochazka and Benhart remain among the top options at tackle, but how quickly will Hood, a Georgia transfer, make his mark?
Corcoran appears best-suited for a return to guard, but he’ll have competition from Piper and Nouili, who returns from a one-year suspension.
Scott seems to be an obvious fit at center, given Hixson’s departure and a lack of experience at the position from Nebraska’s other linemen.
Lutovsky will compete at guard and Anthony is another depth option at tackle, while Nebraska also has a large group of freshmen joining the program.
Goldman and Maciejczak are wild cards — they could both move to the defensive side of the ball — but Gottula, Knutson and Sledge are redshirt candidates unless they can make their mark early. Gottula is an early enrollee who will participate in spring practice.
Who picks up right where they left off?
In particular, will Prochazka be fully healthy after playing eight games in two seasons due to injury?
Then there’s Nouili, a player that grew into a starting left guard in 2021 before missing the entire 2022 season.
On the other side of the equation, Scott will aim to keep the same level of play he showed at Arizona State and Benhart will need to continue the growth he displayed late in the season.