LINCOLN — For true freshman offensive lineman Turner Corcoran, “it was just another Friday night in Lawrence, Kansas.”
Corcoran, who played high school football in Lawrence, held on to that sentiment from graduate assistant Hunter Miller as he took the field for his first start as a Husker against Rutgers under the Friday night lights.
But he wasn't facing high schoolers anymore. During this game he lined up against Big Ten defensive linemen, some of the most physical in college football. He was forced to fill the big shoes of left tackle Brenden Jaimes, who ended his streak of 40 consecutive starts to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.
On the right side of the line, redshirt freshman tackle Bryce Benhart lined up for his eighth start — he started every game of the 2020 season.
That game provided a glimpse of the future of NU’s pipeline. Behind Corcoran, Benhart and Nebraska’s offensive line, the Huskers gained 620 total yards of offense — including 365 on the ground — in their victory over Rutgers.
Now Corcoran is looking to capitalize on the lessons he learned during that game.
“It was huge to get that confidence rolling and just to feel how the tempo of the game is gonna go for an entire game,” said the 6-foot-6, 300-pound left tackle. “Not just eight snaps during an Illinois game, and then an Ohio State game. So it really helped me to get out there for 60 snaps.”
Benhart also recognizes the learning momentum created from getting game experience.
“We're growing from that Rutgers game, from that last game you guys saw. This is the opportunity to build off of that,” Benhart said. “This spring ball is very important.”
Offensive line coach Greg Austin is emphasizing detail during spring practices, according to both Benhart and Corcoran.
“From the beginning of practice, we're working on footwork, explosiveness — come off the ball really fast, come off the ball hard and then anger finishing blocks till the end of the whistle,” Corcoran said.
He said he has a few things to work on as it pertains to those qualities but he's doing a “decent job at it.”
As for Benhart, he said he's striving to improve on anger and finishing, which he felt he didn’t have much of last season.
Austin’s group has limited upperclassmen with three sophomores, three juniors and no seniors. Corcoran said sophomore Cameron Jurgens and the three juniors — Broc Bando, Trent Hixson and Matt Sichterman — are the leaders of the line with Jurgens, a two-year starting center, at the helm.
Nebraska has young players like Corcoran, Benhart and left guard Ethan Piper who have game experience, and a young group providing depth at multiple positions. Teddy Prochazka, Nouredin Nouili and Jimmy Fritzsche are aiming for Corcoran’s left tackle spot and forcing him to compete every day.
Benhart said he and Corcoran watch film of NFL offensive linemen like Mike McGlinchey, Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown to further develop their game. Benhart (6-9, 330 pounds) also said he and Corcoran communicate and help each other because they both know the requirements of being a freshman starting on the line.
Austin said Corcoran starting against Rutgers was “critical” to his offseason development. The left tackle echoed that the action gave him a boost of confidence.
“I felt like I could hang a little bit with the big boys in the Big Ten,” Corcoran said.