Nebraska’s veteran offensive line is “armored” for the rigors of the upcoming Big Ten season.

Donovan Raiola likens the summer to preparing for a fight, and Nebraska’s offense is ready.

The Husker offensive line coach on Tuesday detailed the offseason process of getting the gear they need to get through the Big Ten football season. Nutrition. Conditioning. Mobility. 24 big men spending countless hours together every day.

Most importantly, though, is the strength of NU’s offense, and the veteran leadership that’s in position to lead the entire team to a winning season.

“For us on the offensive line, we just continue to build their body armor for chaos and out-of-control environments,” Raiola said during an appearance on the Huskers Radio Network. “For us, it’s all about power, so the stronger these guys are, the better they’re going to be.”

NU’s blocker corps is already loaded with proven talent. The starting five (left to right) are Teddy Prochaska, Turner Corcoran, Ben Scott, Micah Mazcqua and Bryce Benhart, all of drinking age and multi-year veterans. Justin Evans and Henry Lutofsky have already proven they can cut in on the other side of the line whenever and wherever needed.

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“They’ve really come on board and are like a machine now,” Raiola said. “The room runs on its own. We have to correct them sometimes and steer them in the right direction, but it’s fun to see the older players speaking up more and pulling the younger guys along.”

Raiola, entering his third year at Nebraska and the only player coach Matt Lue has retained from his predecessor, said there could be some future pros in this position group. Like Benhart, who has adapted well to Lue’s “get a little better every day” approach — “he’s going to get a lot better this year,” Raiola said — and Prochaska, a 6-foot-10, 325-pound junior who’s getting stronger and stronger.

Evans, the No. 2 center, can also slot in at left or right guard. Corcoran, a fifth-year player, can play all five positions, “which is what makes him special,” Raiola said. At 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, Lutofsky is one of the strongest players on the team. Mazurcqua, a former interior starter at Baylor and Florida, is learning North’s offense and standards and has “the best talent in the world.”

Scott, a transfer from Arizona State who started at center for the Huskers last season, has already earned a reputation as a physically and mentally tough leader who makes sure he calls the blocks.

“He has a calming effect on the guys around him and the guys in the huddle,” Raiola said, “and we encourage him to continue to be vocal and to not only be vocal on the offensive line but also the offensive line and the rest of the team.”

The depth continues from there: Jacob Hood and Tyler Knaack are both former Power Four transfers who continue to develop behind the scenes, plus a host of players who redshirted for 2023, including Gunnar Gotula, Sam Sledge, Jason Maciejczak and Brock Knutson, plus seven freshmen, led by Grant Briggs and Gibson Pyle, who were expected to enroll early.

“You want your offensive line to be made up of veteran guys who have been through a lot of different things and have a lot of experience,” Raiola said. “Then you have a younger group that comes up and the older guys set the standard and are role models for the younger guys. And then you bring them in and coach them and get them ready when their turn comes. So it’s going to be fun.”

The linemen continue to stick together off the field, too. The goal is to build a brotherhood — the closer you are, the more trust there is on game day — and see things “with the same eyes.” Raiola recalls first seeing that culture when he was a practice squad member for the Chicago Bears in 2009. When center Orin Kreutz stood up to go to practice, everyone stood up and walked out with him.

With Nebraska’s young, new group of quarterbacks and mostly inexperienced players around them, the Husker linemen are even more obvious standard-bearers. They help the quarterback get out of the huddle with the rhythm of the calls. They let the hits do the talking and make a statement when they need to.

Raiola, the uncle of freshman and former five-star quarterback Dylan Raiola, called his nephew’s learning and adjusting to the college game “a fun little process.”

“It’s awesome,” Donovan Raiola said. “Dylan’s a special young man and it’s just awesome to be around him every day. Every day is a good day for him. It’s going to be very exciting for him to watch his development through the spring.”

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