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2023 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview: Roster, Schedule, Depth Chart

It’s the hope that kills you.

Nebraska v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Each year, Nebraska Cornhuskers fans gird themselves for the next football season, embellishing any positives while simultaneously repressing memory of any weaknesses manifested the previous year. Hope springs eternal.

It has been U-G-L-Y on the football front in Lincoln. The once-mighty Huskers are coming off a sixth consecutive losing season. After having a total of two head coaches from 1962-1997, the program has cycled through five head coaches in the last quarter century. The latest to flounder, local hero Scott Frost, never finished above fifth in the B1G West.

Will this be the year that things start to turn around for the Big Red? Nobody really knows, but I sure as hell hope so.

The 2022 Season

Entitlement is a helluva drug. You couldn’t blame Nebraska fans for being excited to see progress under fifth-year Coach Frost, with his (forcibly) revamped staff. Fans looked for something to dull the pain from the miserable year that was 2021 millennium we are having. While the hopes were high, the win total would not be.

The season started with a road trip to Ireland. It also ended there after Northwestern secured its only win of the season. Frost was able to beat the mighty Fighting Hawks of North Dakota, before succumbing to Georgia Southern, home. Yes, that really happened.

Frost’s coaching tenure ended the next day. Mickey Joseph took the reins.

The offense was led ably by transfer Casey Thompson. He could throw, but the line could not protect him. The six-foot, 195 pounder got sacked a lot, and he got hit even more. An injury at home versus Illinois ended any chance for the team to reach bowl eligibility (he transferred to FAU after spring practice).

Under Coach Joseph’s leadership, the team grew in confidence, and even managed to knock off Iowa in the Heroes Game. The interim coach was well-liked, and many (including me) hoped that Mickey would stick around, possibly as Associate Head Coach. That did not happen. He was arrested for domestic violence the week Matt Rhule was hired — a truly sickening end to a truly ridiculous era of Nebraska football.

The Big Red would go on to win a total of four games, going 3-6 in conference.

Nebraska has seen better days. Most everyone has.

The Coach

On November 26, Nebraska announced Matt Rhule as the new head coach. With experience boosting moribund programs at Temple and Baylor, he brings a reputation as a culture builder and innovative mind. He might be more at home with college players than the grizzled pros who grew tired of him in Carolina.

From my perch, he has hit the right notes in Lincoln. He is seen about town. He communicates within the program and within the fanbase. He is constantly in motion, and seems to have established a competitive environment. I cannot claim I know how this will work out, but I am comforted to have a coach who comports himself as an adult, and leads the program responsibly. He seems to actually work toward positive outcomes!

Swagger is out, hard work is in.

Is this the end of hubris, dysfunction, and ennui?

I hope so.

The Offense

Jeff Sims, a Georgia Tech transfer, will be the starter under center this year. He has a good arm, is an excellent runner, and has prototype quarterback size - 6’4, 220. He has the frame to take some punishment, and the wherewithal to escape pressure. Good, because the offensive line still has a distance to go. There has been talk of improvement in the trenches, but as anything coming out of the Husker Industrial Complex, that should be taken with a grain of salt. There is talent at all of the skill positions, and there are some home run hitters. The cupboard is not bare.

Also...Rhule will use a fullback. Will the team have the ability to ground it out in the fourth quarter?

I hope so.

The Defense

The defense was not great at times last year. Or the year before... Or the year before that... Or, well, anytime after 2010. This is hyperbole, but sometimes it feels that way. A new system is being installed, the 3-3-5. Rhule pulled Tony White from Syracuse to install the scheme, which is based on flexibility and confusing the offense. I am interested to see how it works, and the opener in Dinkytown will be a litmus test. Can this scheme stop a ball-control running offense?

I hope so.

Special Teams

The putrescence of Nebraska Special Teams in the Frost era cannot be overstated. After he left, there was actual improvement to semi-competence. Coach Rhule has said he will stress the third phase, and that attention is needed. The staff has secured scholarships for specialists in both the 2023 and 2024 classes. There is maximum potential for growth here.

Could the special teams nightmare be behind us?

I hope so.

So what’s the schedule like?

If you look at this schedule, apart from Michigan there is a lot of uncertainty. Will Minnesota have a quarterback? Will Colorado have some steak to go with Coach Prime’s sizzle? Will Nebraska lose to a G6 team, again? More than once? How will the Illini replace the defensive stars that have moved on? Will Northwestern Wildcats have a pulse? What will the new Purdue regime look like? Is Michigan State sinking, or was it just a blip? Will Maryland have anything in the tank in November (no, they will not). Wisconsin air-raid, also with a 3-3-5? Will Iowa do anything offensively (/chortle/)?

I would be content with five wins, and I would LOVE six.

If I squint, can my team find a way to winning seven-ish games?

I hope so.

So how do we sum this all up:

When talking to a Nebraska fan, do mention: The end of the Solich curse, Matt Rhule, Volleyball, the Nebraska Bowling team, five national championships including the one Frost got, and the radiant future the Athletic Department insists is just over the horizon.

When talking to a Nebraska fan, do not mention: How the radiant future year by year recedes before us. Literally the entire Riley era, a not-insignificant portion of the Pelini era, the Frost era...wait, why are we talking about the bad stuff? NEBRASKA IS WINNING THE WEST AND THE WHOLE THING AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND YOU CAN’T STOP US.

GBR. Dammit.


Will Rhule make Nebraska Football better?

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  • 88%
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