The latest Nebraska reboot begins Thursday night when the Cornhuskers visit Minnesota to open the 2023 season in a Big Ten Conference game in Minneapolis.
Matt Rhule is the program’s fourth full-time head coach in the past decade, taking over for Scott Frost, who was fired midway through the 2022 campaign after going 16-31 in four-plus seasons. Rhule returned to college after two-plus years coaching the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, but he has experience in rebuilding collegiate programs with successful turnarounds at Temple and Baylor.
Nebraska is coming off a 4-8 season in 2022, one in which it lost five games by one score.
“We won’t know truly who we are until we play a game, and probably a couple games,” Rhule said. “I talk a little bit about getting to that first game and there being a messy front end. There’s also a messy front end to each season and a messy front end to a new coach.”
Minnesota went 9-4 last year and won five of its final six games, including a victory over Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Golden Gophers have made bowl games in four of six seasons under P.J. Fleck, who is 44-27 with the school, and his three nine-win seasons are tied for second most in school history.
“We’ve gotten the most out of every football team we’ve been able to coach,” Fleck said.
Like many teams, Nebraska is overloaded with newcomers. The roster features 63 players who weren’t in Lincoln a year ago, including quarterback Jeff Sims, a transfer from Georgia Tech who is expected to start. Sims had more than 5,600 yards of total offense in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, while Virginia transfer Billy Kemp IV’s 192 career receptions ranks sixth among active FBS receivers.
Minnesota’s changes are more subtle, and mostly within. Greg Harbaugh Jr., the tight ends coach, is now coaching quarterbacks and will be co-offensive coordinator, and his No. 1 will be redshirt sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis, who takes over for Tanner Morgan.
Kaliakmanis played in 11 games with five starts a year ago, while Western Michigan transfer Sean Tyler steps in as the main ball carrier after school career rushing leader Mohamed Ibrahim graduated.
–Field Level Media