With the hiring of Matt Rhule as Nebraska’s new coach, optimism abounds in Lincoln. A much needed new direction is coming for the Huskers. And after a disappointing 4-8 season in 2022 that saw Nebraska miss the postseason for the 7th straight year, Rhule’s past record of building programs at Temple and Baylor should provide the fan base with reason for optimism.

A season that started with a 31-28 loss to Northwestern in Dublin back in August ended on a positive note. Friday’s 24-17 win over Iowa was Nebraska’s 1st win over the Hawkeyes since 2014. Mickey Joseph and his staff did an admirable job leading the team after Scott Frost’s firing in early September.

Let’s take a look at the position grades in Lincoln from the 2022 season.

Quarterback: B-

Texas transfer Casey Thompson started 10 of 12 games in 2022. Thompson missed the Minnesota and Michigan games with an elbow injury suffered against Illinois in early November.

Thompson threw for 2,407 yards and 17 TDs. His 87-yard scoring strike to Trey Palmer against Iowa was the longest of the season, and a thing of beauty.

But Thompson did throw 10 picks. Many times he was under duress. He took more than his share of hard hits and is banged up to end the year. Under the circumstances, he performed very well.

Behind Thompson is a huge question mark. Whether it’s Chubba Purdy or Logan Smothers moving forward, no one knows. Production from the guys behind Thompson was missing. The pair of games he missed, his absence was noticeable.

Running backs: B

Anthony Grant had a frustrating end to the season. Grant was well on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing on the season. But 3 straight sub-30-yard performances left Grant at 915 yards and 6 TDs.

The junior from Buford, Georgia, had 5 100-yard rushing games. He did a nice job in blitz pickups as well. The Florida State and New Mexico Military Institute transfer made his presence felt.

Rahmir Johnson battled injuries most of the season. He came back and looked healthy against Iowa. Moving forward, Nebraska could use a healthy Johnson in 2023.

The Huskers have depth at the position. But the transfer portal and who comes and goes is always a question mark. The offseason could see some movement here.

Wide receivers/tight ends: B+

The addition of Palmer from the transfer portal was one of the best pickups Nebraska had in the offseason. Palmer ended his prolific season, and college career, with a bang against Iowa. Palmer surpassed Stanley Morgan Jr. as the single-season leader in receiving yards at NU with 1,043.


His 87-yard TD reception was impressive. He found countless ways to get open and was a steady, reliable target for Thompson.

Palmer wasn’t the only transfer who made a splash. Marcus Washington from Texas turned into Thompson’s No. 2 target. And Travis Vokolek at tight end had a nice year with 240 yards and a pair of TDs. Vokolek missed 2 games in September with an injury.

Nebraska has some young guys ready to step in as well. It’s a fairly deep position, and one Rhule can build around.

Offensive line: F

This may be a rough assessment, but it’s an accurate one. There’s no good way to spin it. The offensive line play all year was brutal. If it doesn’t improve quickly, Nebraska will struggle to regain any form of relevance.

The Huskers gave up 33 sacks on the season. Quarterbacks took a beating. Too many TFL and unnecessary hits. Running the ball was a challenge — especially late in the year.

In a conference as big and physical as the B1G, offensive line play has to be a top priority. It hasn’t been in Lincoln for quite some time.

Rhule knows wins in this league are tied to top-tier line play. He’ll work to correct it, and fast. Look for the Huskers to hit the portal to try to shore up the offensive tackle spots in the offseason.

Defensive line: D+

Another area where Nebraska currently isn’t good enough. Kudos to guys like Colton Feist, Ochaun Mathis, Ty Robinson and Garrett Nelson. They play hard and have high motors. But moving forward Nebraska needs difference-makers on its D-line.

Only 4 B1G teams had fewer than Nebraska’s 21 sacks. The Huskers were near the bottom of the league in rush yards allowed (2,269). Stopping the run and pressuring the QB starts with the front 4. Nebraska needs to find a guy or 2 who can really impact games up front.

Linebackers: C

Nick Henrich was lost for the season with an injury at Purdue Oct. 16. Luke Reimer, the team’s leading tackler, didn’t play at Iowa. Attrition set in during the year.

One huge bright spot is freshman Ernest Hausmann. The Columbus, Nebraska, native played extremely well over the final 3 games. Hausmann recorded 28 tackles with a sack and a fumble recovery. His speed was noticeable and his ability to cover sideline to sideline will benefit Nebraska in 2023.

Nebraska will need more depth at this position. It’s an area that proved thin as injuries mounted. If Reimer returns for his senior year, it will be a nice 1-2 punch with him and Hausmann.

Defensive backs: C+

This position group improved toward the end of the season. The addition of freshman Malcolm Hartzog at corner helped shore up the back end.

Myles Farmer and Isaac Gifford were 2nd and 3rd on the team in tackles. But the Huskers surrendered 225.3 yards per game through the air. Too much in this league. Only Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana were worse.

The Huskers will need to find an answer opposite Hartzog in 2023. Farmer and Marques Buford Jr. are both sophomores and should return to solidify the safety spots.

Specialists: B+

An area of improvement in 2022 for Nebraska. And the reason for it is a pair of transfers. Brian Buschini (Montana) at punter and Timmy Bleekrode (Furman) at kicker brought improvement to the kicking game.

Buschini averaged over 44 yards per punt, including a season-long 74-yarder.

Bleekrode made 9-of-12 FGs, while kickoff man Brendan Franke had touchbacks on 36 of 54 attempts.

Both Buschini and Bleekrode tweeted out they’d be returning for 2023.