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Nebraska Finds Its Quarterback With Dylan Raiola Commitment

by Dec 18, 2023Nebraska Football, Recruiting

Nebraska Finds Its Quarterback With Dylan Raiola Commitment
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska football and head coach Matt Rhule have found their quarterback for the future. 

Former Georgia commit Dylan Raiola, ranked by most sites as the top quarterback in the 2024 class, flipped from the Bulldogs to the Huskers. Reports indicated throughout the past week that there was potential for the move, and it became official Monday afternoon. ESPN and others reported the flip, with the quarterback confirming it with a post soon after. 

The move obviously has significant implications for the future of the program under Rhule.

Here are three takeaways, presented by Pinnacle Bank.

The Unexpected Answer, Though Potentially the Ideal One

Heading into the offseason, most would have figured Nebraska’s next starting quarterback would be a transfer, as it had been the past two seasons.

Surely, none of the 2023 passers could take that spot. Jeff Sims, who arrived from Georgia Tech to become Rhule’s first starter at Nebraska, struggled mightily in all of his appearances and has already returned to the portal. Chubba Purdy and Heinrich Haarberg were the other two to play, neither succeeding well enough to grab possession of next year’s starting gig. 

And until this week, the lone incoming freshman quarterback was set to be in-state 3-star Daniel Kaelin, generally not viewed as someone set to be a first-year starter. 

So, Nebraska looked to a portal filled with plenty of talented players looking for a new home. It was reportedly on track to land Kyle McCord from Ohio State, but the former Buckeye eventually opted for Syracuse. 

Without any other information, that might’ve been cause for panic. But the Huskers also reemerged as a contender for Raiola around the same time. To what degree his situation affected the pursuit of McCord is unclear, but regardless, Nebraska should still be very happy with this result. 

It is also a bit more in line with Rhule’s stated philosophy. That’s not to say he can’t or won’t be successful with a quarterback out of the portal, but by securing Raiola, the coach is playing to his strengths well. He’s said he wants to lean heavily on more traditional recruitment and development, and this is a splash in that category. 

In his previous stops at Temple and Baylor, he found his starting quarterback in year one with true freshmen PJ Walker and Charlie Brewer, respectively. Neither started to begin the year, but secured the role during the season and held it through the rest of Rhule’s tenure.  

The first year at Nebraska was a departure from that process, but with this commitment, the Huskers hope to have a player who spends three or four years leading the team. 

Is the Quarterback Room Solidified?

Nebraska’s scholarship quarterback group now consists of Raiola, Kaelin, Purdy and Haarberg.

Some expected the team to add two transfer quarterbacks this offseason, and were ready to welcome both Raiola and McCord. Now that the latter is out of the picture, it will be interesting to see if the team still looks for an experienced option to join and give the true freshman a real challenge for the top spot on the depth chart.

If not, sticking with this group might be a fine decision. Purdy has played four years of college football, working through injuries last season and turning in some impressive moments in the final few games. He’s Raiola’s top competitor as things currently stand, and would be a respectable backup. 

Haarberg’s end to the year was not as encouraging, but Rhule has expressed confidence in him and it’s not too hard to imagine him having a place on the team. He made an appearance at tight end in the season opener and his size could potentially make him of use in short-yardage rushing situations at quarterback. 

Eyes Turn Elsewhere on Offense

Having a quarterback — or in this case, strongly believing you have one — makes things easier on offense. Still, that position wasn’t the sole reason the Huskers failed to put up points last year. 

Nebraska failed to find consistency among all its skill positions last season. That was partially due to injury, but not fully. 

The team has a good trio of running backs currently set to return with Emmett Johnson, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Rahmir Johnson. That group’s floor is solid if healthy, though the ceiling is still hard to judge. 

Tight end Thomas Fidone II, finally getting on the field after two major injuries, showed why he was such a highly-rated prospect. His athleticism helped him to 260 yards and a team-best four receiving touchdowns on the year. Four-star Carter Nelson will add another key player there in 2024. 

The wide receivers are a significant question mark. Leading receiver Billy Kemp IV used his last year of eligibility transferring to the Huskers, and the experienced Marcus Washington will seek a waiver for one more season on the team. 

While Malachi Coleman and Jaylen Lloyd flashed signs of being legitimate contributors in their freshman years, wide receiver might be the offensive position most in need of an experienced transfer. Nebraska has been led in receiving by a different transfer each of the last three seasons, and another could be needed to potentially help a young quarterback and an offense in need of growth. 

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