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Nebraska Football Position Group Preview: O-Line

Nebraska returns A LOT of production on the O-line this year.  Ben Scott and Bryce Benhart both guys that had draft buzz decided to use their last year of eligibility to come back another year.  Benhart’s jump under Rhule and Donovan Raiola has been remarkable.  Both he and Ben Scott are in the projected Day 2-3 draft pick talk.  They also added another guy with similar projections in Florida transfer guard Micah Mazzccua.

            Now what did they lose? Well, not a whole lot skill-wise, but at the same time it’s two guys who bleed Husker red.  Ethan Piper was a great locker-room guy and a guy you rooted for as he stood for everything in what it means to be a Husker.  His presence at guard will be missed, and you saw that when he went down with a season-ending injury last year.  They also lost Nouredin Nouili.  He recently signed with the Saints to be a part of their rookie mini-camp.  Nouili was solid after coming off a season he spent suspended due to PED use.  He wasn’t quite the player everyone thought he would be coming off the suspension, but again he was a solid piece to the interior o-line last year.

What to Expect this year

            This is the most experienced O-line we have had in a loooong time.  Starting with the tackles, Bryce Benhart (5th year Senior), Teddy Prochaska (Redshirt Junior, 11 career starts most coming last year), Turner Corcoran (Way too many starts).  I think the tackle position lacks legitimate depth.  Turner isn’t a guy you can rely on and frankly, he’s got enough shots to where he clearly doesn’t have it.  He was the only player in PFF history to record a 0.0 passing grade and he did it not once, but twice last season. 

Teddy stepped into his role after Turner went down with an injury, and the play at left tackle improved mightily.  I think Turner could be a good guard and should be more of a utility depth piece which is valuable.  It’s just been proven time and time again that tackle isn’t a position that’s going to work for him.  Some young guys to keep an eye on at the tackle position: Gunnar Gottula (RS Freshmen out of Lincoln), Tyler Knaak (Walk-on transfer Utah, RS Freshmen), Grant Brix (4-star top 75 Freshmen/has also been getting work at guard).

            The interior O-line has less experience but has more DUDES.  Ben Scott will start at center again.  He brings a ton of experience was an All-Pac 12 at ASU and was the most consistent player on the O-line last year.  Hopefully he stays healthy.  At guard they brought in Micah Mazzccua a Florida transfer by way of Baylor.  Micah was one of the country's highest graded run blockers by PFF last year.  Rhule and him go way back they have had a relationship since Micah was 16.  There was a lot of talk about how he had to change how he approached things this spring at Nebraska. He is fully bought in now, and the staff is challenging him to take his game to the next level.  The 2nd guard spot is going to be a battle between Henry Lutovsky and Justin Evans (no longer Evans-Jenkins).  Both saw lots of time last year, Justin Evans played more center than guard.  I think both are very good options and have a lot of room for growth. 

Three Keys

1.     Keep Ben Scott healthy.  Everyone knows the O-line goes as the center goes.  They command the entire line.  Losing Ben Scott would be a huge blow to the offense and to his NFL hopes.

2.     Develop the tackles.  The tackle situation is the best it’s been in years, but it still needs work.  The continuing development of Teddy and Bryce will be huge.  If they both continue on their current improvement track, they could be the lockdown pass protectors this offense has been missing for a while.

3.     Younger guys are better than expected.  It would be big if one of the highly talented freshmen could crack the rotation early on.  Gibson Pyle, Grant Brix, and Preston Taumua were all very heavily recruited out of high school.  If they live up to their high school rankings all three should be battling for meaningful playing time next year.       


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