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Looking Back At Nebraska’s Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams

In Nebraska’s 2024 recruiting cycle, special teams coordinator Ed Foley only added three-star punter Kamdyn Koch to the Nebraska Cornhuskers roster. This might be a misstep in Matt Rhule’s second year as head coach, but the Big Red has plenty of playmakers when it comes to the special teams unit.  Let’s break down who stood out last year and a possible solution for Nebraska’s special teams in 2024.

Tristan Alvano

In 2023, the freshman from Omaha Westside showed signs of inconsistency as a member of  Foley’s unit. At times, he could carry the load. We know this because he connected on a 55-yard field goal in the third quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers. Coincidentally, this make also was the second-longest field goal since Alex Henery in 2008.  And in the next week, he was able to strike from distance once again.  He was able to knot the game up against the Northwestern Wildcats from 47 yards away. But that doesn’t mean that the freshman’s season was perfect with the Cornhuskers. In fact, the placekicker went through late adversity in 2023. In conference play against Big Ten opponents, he had six missed field goals. Normally, these misses are expected for a freshman, but these mishaps were devastating in critical moments. According to the Huskers team website, Alvano only made 1-out-of-2 field goals at Wisconsin, with his lone make being a 30-yarder to send the Huskers into overtime. Now the sophomore just has to prove himself in the offseason? But can he do so with Nico Ottomanelli trying to make a name for himself?  The top-ranked kicker in the state of New Jersey is sure to give Alvano a run for his money.

Brian Buschini

Much like his place-kicking teammate, the Montana native also had ups and downs throughout the season. However, the adversity would hit much earlier for the junior punter in 2023. In week two against head coach Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes, Buschini punted a mere four times for NU and had one touchback. But luckily, he would rebound with a pair of strong performances in Memorial Stadium. Against Northern Illinois, Buschini’s play would start to improve rapidly.  Six punts of his were averaged out at 43 yards, with one even going inside the one-yard line. But beginning in conference play, he would show off most of his punting prowess. This would show itself in a home date against the Northwestern Wildcats when he would place four of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line. And against head coach Ryan Walters and the Purdue Boilermakers, he had another decent performance. Because of this, expect him to grasp the starting job because of his experience. As a future legacy, Koch could make a run at the starting spot, but a redshirt is likely in his future with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Read more about Kamdyn Koch and his legacy in The Impact That Kamdyn Koch’s Commitment Has On Nebraska

A Solution to Nebraska’s Punt Returns?

Since the Scott Frost era, the Cornhuskers have forgotten the art of the punt return. In 2023, Nebraska kept a rotation of senior wideout Billy Kemp IV, freshman defensive back Ethan Nation, and sophomore wide receiver Alex Bullock. But now that Foley and Rhule are in their second year with the program, they can try out sophomores Malachi Coleman and Jaylen Lloyd in that spot. But an even better choice would be either Isaiah Neyor or Jahmal Banks. The duo are foremost experts on the college game and have the production to back it up. At Wyoming in 2020, Neyor exploded for 878 yards and 12 touchdowns. And in 2023 at Wake Forest, Banks connected with former Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman to amass 653 yards and four touchdowns. But can the two veterans make the transition to special teams? It will certainly be interesting to see, as not even former Cornhusker Trey Palmer could fix the team’s woes. Hopefully, we see a change in Nebraska’s special teams going forward. After all, the team has a perfect opportunity to correct their mistakes this August in their first game against the UTEP Miners.

Nebraska's special teams
Photo courtesy: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports


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