A Fresh Start for the Program
It has been a whirlwind for the Nebraska program over the past few months. On November 26, 2022, Matt Rhule was helmed by athletic director Trev Alberts to take over the Cornhusker program. Now with his staff firmly in place over the last couple of months, the team can now focus on spring conditioning as well as preparing for the challenge that the next season brings. In this article, we will discuss the Cornhuskers that are returning to positions of need in 2023. We will also examine which players are likely to be contributors this spring.
Returning Players: (SR) Casey Thompson, (SO) Chubba Purdy, (JR) Logan Smothers, (SO) Heinrich Haarberg, (RS FR) Richard Torres
For the first time in years, it seems as though Nebraska has a crowded quarterback room. In 2022, senior Casey Thompson led the way among all Husker quarterbacks with a rating of 64.5. He added to this by passing for 2,407 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Behind him, there is no immediate competition as sophomore Chubba Purdy followed up his limited appearances with only three interceptions to his credit. Logan Smothers had a breakout year in 2021 when he passed for 317 yards along with one rushing touchdown. However, 2022 wasn’t kind to him. This is because he passed for only 98 yards last season with the Cornhuskers.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 25, 2022
Watch Out For: Jeff Sims
As the newcomer to Nebraska’s roster, Sims has a lot to prove if he wants to beat out the senior, Thompson for othe starting quarterback job this season. In his appearances with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, he threw for 1,115 yards along with five touchdowns and three interceptions last season. But is no experience a hurdle too high to overcome for the QB? In 2022, Thompson made the most of being an effective quarterback when he completed 173 passes for 274 attempts. It’s up to Sims to recreate or eclipse these numbers to succeed in Matt Rhule’s offense next fall.
Read more about the quarterbacks here: https://lastwordonsports.com/collegefootball/2023/02/01/nebraska-2023-signing-day-a-class-in-review/
The Offensive Lineman
Returning Players: (SO) Teddy Prochazka, (SR) Nouilli Nouredin, (JR) Ethan Piper, (JR) Turner Corcoran, (JR) Bryce Benhart
Under coach Donovan Raiola, the Huskers were stretched thin on the offensive line last season. Junior Turner Corcoran started the year at left tackle due to an injury that Teddy Prochazka sustained during last year’s game against Northwestern. Meanwhile, Bryce Benhart struggled mightily at the right tackle position at the beginning of last season. However, he showed enough improvement at the year’s end to claim the position as his own. Only Ethan Piper showed true consistency at the left guard position in 2022.
Watch Out For: Ben Scott
As the only lineman with legitimate. starting Power Five experience on Nebraska’s roster, Arizona State sophomore Ben Scott looks to add experience to NU’s offensive line. In just 13 games at right tackle, he played a key role in providing run block support for their rushing attack last season when the Sun Devils rushed for 2,000 yards. Furthermore, he was just as good in pass protection as the Sun Devil’s offensive line allowed 21 sacks in the regular season. This ties the record for the 36th fewest sacks in the FBS. However, it remains to be seen if Raiola can assemble an offensive line that is worthy of showcasing his talents to help win with the Cornhuskers.
— Ben Scott (@Bscott66_) December 23, 2022
Read more about our thoughts on the O-line here: https://lastwordonsports.com/collegefootball/2023/02/01/nebraska-2023-signing-day-a-class-in-review/
Returning Players: (JR) Isaiah Garcia Castaneda, (SO) Xavier Betts, (JR) Marcus Washington
Under wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph, Nebraska’s wide receiver room experienced major growth in 2022. This was perfectly demonstrated by Trey Palmer when he hauled in 71 receptions for 1,043 yards along with nine touchdowns last season. A compliment to his play was provided by Marcus Washington as he caught 31 receptions for 471 yards and one touchdown. Now heading into 2023, the remnants of Joseph’s wide receiver room are extinguished as the coach was arrested at the end of 2022. Furthermore, star wideout Trey Palmer left the program for the NFL Draft and Alante Brown has since left the program. Now it is up to new wideouts coach Garrett McGuire to lead the unit into 2023. As the former wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers, he no doubt has major experience. But can this experience translate to the Big Ten?
Watch Out For: Billy Kemp
As a sophomore at Virginia in 2020, he led all the school’s wide receivers when he caught 67 passes for 644 yards along with one touchdown. He doubled this production in 2021 when he hauled in 74 passes for 725 yards. Based on these numbers, it seems that he would assume the starting role very quickly. But, his ascent to the starting spot will be marked with complications as Xavier Betts, Isaiah Garcia Castaneda, and Marcus Washington return to the fold to compete for the position.
More on the wideouts here: https://lastwordonsports.com/collegefootball/2023/02/01/nebraska-2023-signing-day-a-class-in-review/
Returning Players: (SO) Ty Robinson, (JR) Nash Hutmacher, (SR) Stephon Wynn, (SO) Blaise Gunnerson
With two different coaches in Tony Tuioti and Mike Dawson heading the defensive line in two seasons for the Cornhuskers, it is no wonder that the defensive line unit struggled in 2022. However, there were a few bright spots. Former Husker Garrett Nelson had a total of 65 tackles, 35 of which were solo, along with five and a half sacks. Because of this effort, Nelson decided to take his talents to the NFL Draft. But instead of worrying about depth, Nebraska will have a lot to look forward to in the return of Ty Robinson. In 2021, he totaled 27 tackles, 14 assists, and two sacks. He remained consistent this past year with 24 tackles, 10 assists, and two sacks. New defensive line coach Tony White has been impressive on the recruiting trail by bringing new talent into the fold. But can he develop the talent now that he is a newcomer to the Big Ten?
Watch Out For: Princewill Umanmielien
As a top 300 overall recruit in 2023, Umanmielien had a starring role on the defensive line for Manor High School. In his senior year alone, he recorded 65 tackles with 22 tackles for loss as well as one forced fumble. Because of these efforts, Umnamielien was chosen as the district’s defensive lineman of the year as a senior. His pedigree as a player extends even deeper as his brother Princely is a junior defensive lineman at Florida. Can new coach Tony White add to his family legacy by developing him into a star for the Cornhuskers this fall in the 3-35 defense?
Time to Win Now
When we consider the depth that Rhule and his staff have built in their first months on the job, it certainly bodes for interesting spring competition to happen. But there is still a major concern. Can Rhule and his coaching staff adjust to the Big Ten quickly enough to succeed? If they don’t, it could be a long season ahead for Cornhusker fans.
Photo courtesy: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK