Skip to main content

Nebraska Football: 2022 Cornhuskers Season Preview and Prediction

Garrett Wilson, Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Garrett Nelson and the Cornhuskers are ranked No. 54 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Jimmy Buffett's song "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" might be appropriate background music for Nebraska in 2022 — at least the song's title is apropos. Head coach Scott Frost's contract has been restructured, and all but one of his offensive coaches are new, along with a coach strictly focused on special teams.

Plus, Frost is no longer his own offensive coordinator, spending more time with other responsibilities. Mark Whipple, who also coaches the quarterbacks, is the offensive coordinator, coming from Pittsburgh.

Such things happen when you have yet to post a winning record in four seasons, with last year's 3–9 marking the Huskers' worst by percentage since 1957. Even so, believe it or not, 2021 came close to being a winning season. Eight of Nebraska's losses were by a single score, and the ninth, against then-No. 6 Ohio State, ended with a 26–17 score — and it was closer than that.

Another significant change is the departure via the transfer portal of quarterback Adrian Martinez.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Nebraska's Offense for 2022

The conclusion, statistically, would seem to be that Nebraska had success in 2021. The Huskers outrushed, outpassed and outscored the opposition. Nevertheless, Frost fired all of his offensive assistants except tight ends coach Sean Beckton with two games remaining. He wasn't planning a dramatic restructure of the offense, Frost said, just some tweaking under Whipple. But it's been more than that. With the new assistants and a new quarterback, rooms full of running backs and receivers during the spring and some reworking in the line, the offense will certainly look different.

Quarterback has drawn the most attention with Martinez's departure. Texas transfer Casey Thompson, easily the most experienced quarterback, is accustomed to learning new systems. He'll be in charge.

Center Cam Jurgens left early, leaving a hole in the center of the line, while tackles Teddy Prochazka and Turner Corcoran, key parts of the line, missed spring practice with injuries. Nouredin Nouili is solid at left guard. Trent Hixson has starting experience at center. New offensive line coach Donovan Raiola has emphasized aggressiveness and getting off the ball.

Omar Manning is the leading returning receiver, with 26 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns. More is expected of him and from Alante Brown, who saw limited action last season.

In the spring, Beckton had to work with a group of tight ends beset by injuries, as well as deal with the early departure of Austin Allen for the NFL. Travis Vokolek is experienced and is a leader. The tight ends are going to be more involved in the passing game in the new system.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Rahmir Johnson is the most experienced running back, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt last season.

Previewing Nebraska's Defense for 2022

Four of the top five tacklers return: inside linebackers Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich, outside linebacker Garrett Nelson and cornerback Quinton Newsome. That's the good news.

Reimer led with 108 tackles. Henrich, the more vocal of the two, made 99 tackles. The plan is to get Reimer and Henrich more breathers, something that's been difficult because of so many close games. Nelson is a proven playmaker, with the most starting experience.

Outside linebacker Caleb Tannor is the only other returner who started every game. That's the bad news.

The defensive line had to be rebuilt under new coach Mike Dawson, who now works with both the line and outside linebackers following the departure of Tony Tuioti. The line has centered around tackle Ty Robinson, who had four starts. Casey Rogers, who also had starting experience, unexpectedly entered the transfer portal in late April. The Huskers, in turn, took advantage of the portal, landing end Ochaun Mathis from TCU, who is expected to step in immediately.

The secondary was a strength last season. Now only Newsome and safety Myles Farmer have starting experience, and corner Braxton Clark is the only other defensive back with significant playing time.

The defensive statistics weren't flashy in 2021. Nebraska ranked ninth in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense (conference games only). But the unit consistently made stops in critical situations, offsetting mistakes by the offense and contributing significantly to the Huskers' tight scoring margins. Don't expect the rebuilt defense to be as effective. The first concern is up front, stopping the run.

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2022

Previewing Nebraska's Specialists for 2022

Bill Busch, a defensive analyst last season, is the special teams coordinator, a role he had at Nebraska from 2004 to 2007. Two rankings stand out and help to explain Busch's focus. The Huskers were 124th in kickoff returns and tied for 128th in punt returns. LSU transfer Trey Palmer can provide help in either or both. Another transfer, Brian Buschini, was the top FCS punter at Montana, averaging 45.8 yards on 75 career punts. The only way here is up.

Final Analysis

In addition to the pressure to produce a winning record, there are questions up front defensively as well as offensively. Ohio State and Michigan State are off the schedule, replaced by Indiana and Rutgers, probably a positive. Plus, after an opener against Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, the Huskers have four home games and a chance to build some momentum going into the heart of the Big Ten schedule. Can they finally have a winning season under Frost? Under the circumstances, they must.

National Ranking: 53

Podcast: Complete Big Ten Preview for 2022 + Predictions and Rankings