My two-year-old daughter doesn’t know much about sports. I haven’t had the opportunity to teach her the highs and lows of football season. There is one thing my daughter does share with the Nebraska football team however, specifically the offensive line, the mutual love of PANCAKES!
In previous articles I have given stats from returning members of a particular position, unfortunately I don’t have the knowledge of pancake blocks, sacks and hurries given up or times they had to pick the QB off the turf (way too many anyway). These are the guys who will make up the pipeline this season.
Justin Evans-Jenkins, Bryce Benhart, Ethan Piper, Henry Lutovsky, Dylan Parrott, Ben Scott, Nouredin Nouili, Teddy Prochazka, Joey Mancino, Turner Corcoran, Keegan Manning, Jacob Hood, Gunnar Gottula, Mason Goldman, Brock Knutson, Grant Seagren, Sam Sledge, Connor Connealy, David Borchers, Tyler Knaak and Jacob Brandl are the members of the offensive line here to protect everyone at all costs.
That’s a total of 12 Freshmen and Redshirt-Freshmen, 4 Sophomores, 4 Juniors and 1 Senior. If it seems like a young group, it is, at least according to eligibility. Due to the wonderful thing called the Covid year, this group has plenty of experience, including from what I project would be the starting 5. Teddy Prochazka at left tackle, Nouredin Nouili at left guard, Ben Scott at center, Turner Corcoran at right guard and Bryce Benhart at right tackle. Everyone has been through 2 full seasons of college ball, with only Nouili having less than 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Look there is no beating around the bush here, if these guys can’t open holes for the run game or protect the quarterback, this will be another long season. Injuries and suspensions have plagued the O-line in previous years, but currently it looks like the pipeline has patched itself up and is ready to run again. Prochazka is currently dinged up, so it leaves a bit of a “large-mammal” hole at left tackle, but when he returns the O-line will improve.
There will be mounting pressure on Donovan Raiola to have his group improve from last year, but as those of you who remember, and soberly, the group improved as the year progressed after Mickey Joseph took over. The one advantage this “younger” core has is it now has a full season or two under its belt, which means they know how one another operates. The other advantage is due to injuries last year, there were many guys who saw significant playing time at multiple positions, which bodes well in case backups are needed.
Yes, it is another new offensive system these guys have to learn, but with Raiola returning to coach the position they know what is expected of them, at least from their position coach. Most of the staff has professional experience in some capacity, either through playing or coaching. I feel this bodes well for a younger, hungrier group who wants to prove to themselves and to the rest of the B1G that they belong.
Personally, I’m setting a lofty goal for these guys. I expect one of them to be a member of an all B1G team this season. I predict there will be decent improvement throughout the season, allowing fewer sacks and hurries, as well as averaging both higher yards per carry and yards per game. This group has taken its fair share of criticism, including from myself in previous seasons, but I’m ready to run through the holes they provide.
Ideally, the ghosts of Pipeline’s past in the shapes of Domonic Raiola, Dean Steinkuhler, Will Shields, Dave Rimington, Toniu Fonoti, Bob Brown, Rich Glover and Brendan Stai would arrive to provide a way for Nebraska to jam it down defense’s throats old school, but the current crop could have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Cam Jurgens. Fonoti was the last All-American in 2001, but Jurgens has paved the way for these guys to get Nebraska offensive linemen back into the NFL.
Time will tell if any of these guys are of that caliber, but I look forward to what they accomplish this season.